The National Computer Security Center (NCSC) is a department within the National Security Agency (NSA) which focuses on developing security standards for computer equipment and testing equipment to see if it meets these standards. Computer equipment used in sensitive and confidential environments by the United States government must pass NCSC standards, and the organization also works with the computing industry at large to develop equipment for safer computing. In addition to performing extensive testing, the National Computer Security Center also publishes guidelines of its standards which are distributed within the Department of Defense.
This organization was founded in 1981 in response to a growing need for secure computing devices to meet the rising demand for such devices in the government. The National Computer Security Center has two main functions: standards development, and evaluation. On the standards development side, the NCSC works with computing professionals, cryptographers, and others to develop a comprehensive set of standards which can be used to evaluate the security and safety of computing equipment. On the testing and evaluation side, the NCSC actually puts equipment to the test to see if it meets the standards of the organization.
The mission of the National Computer Security Center fits within the larger mission of the NSA, which includes a commitment to Information Assurance (IA). Under IA, the NSA pledges to make information held by the United States government as secure as possible, using a broad assortment of means to secure confidential and sensitive information. Since the use of computers is extremely widespread in the American government, addressing the unique security risks of computer systems is extremely important for the safety and security of the United States.
NCSC standards are also used by organizations outside the United States government, such as companies which want to protect confidential information. Individual consumers also benefit from the efforts of the National Computer Security Center, as the standards of the organization tend to trickle down, with manufacturers of hardware and software using NCSC recommendations to improve the quality of their products. The organization participates in conferences and other events which are designed to offer education and advice to the computing industry in the hopes of making computers more secure.
Employment at the National Computer Security Center is quite varied. Information technology professionals, military officials, and security analysts work side by side with people like skilled hackers to explore vulnerabilities in computing systems. As is the case with the NSA in general, NCSC employees tend to be extremely intelligent, innovative, and secretive.