Industry wants cybersecurity measures fast-tracked

Dec. 30, 2009 at 6:21 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- The Obama administration is under increasing pressure from the security industry after the delays experienced in the appointment of Howard Schmidt as the president's cybersecurity coordinator.

Obama announced Schmidt's appointment last week, but cybersecurity experts said the posting should have been much earlier. Schmidt had served earlier under the Bush administration.

"The very e-mail you are reading underscores our dependence on information technologies in this digital age, which is why it seemed like a fitting way to announce that the President has chosen Howard Schmidt to be the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator," read an e-mail from John O. Brennan, presidential assistant for homeland security and counter-terrorism.

"Howard will have the important responsibility of orchestrating the many important cybersecurity activities across the government."

Schmidt has more than 40 years' experience in government, business and law enforcement, Brennan said in the message posted on the White House Web site.

Still, industry experts said the administration needs to do more, and quickly, to catch up on new developments in criminal and potentially terrorism-related activities that regularly target cyberspace and security systems in government and corporate sectors.

Schmidt was special adviser for cyberspace security from 2001-2003 and helped usher in the National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace. He now is president of the Information Security Forum, a non-profit group of corporations and public sector organizations focused on cybersecurity issues. Brennan said Schmidt will be a "key member" of the national security staff.

"He will also work closely with his economic team to ensure that our cybersecurity efforts keep the nation secure and prosperous," Brennan said. said the security industry appears overall to be positive toward the appointment of Schmidt as the new US cybersecurity czar.

Amrit Williamson, CTO at BigFix, described Schmidt as a highly competent individual whose presence will have a positive impact on the administration's cybersecurity efforts.

But, he added, "There has been mixed reaction to the appointment. Some mention the lack of progress from previous administration attempts towards cybersecurity, of which Schmidt had been involved, others point to a general lack of clear direction by the President."

He said, "I would caution those that are quick to criticize that change takes time and this administration is working under a very different set of dynamics than the previous administrations," reported.

Williamson hoped the appointment would prove to be a "positive move" that will impact on the nation's future and drive it to implement and adopt "more effective means for securing our critical infrastructure."

Neil Fisher, vice president of global security solutions at Unisys, said "Schmidt brings with him important lessons learned during the dot-com boom (and subsequent bust), which have been largely forgotten by other cyber ambassadors to our detriment."

Ken Silva, CTO at security vendor VeriSign, told the BBC he was "disappointed that it has taken this long, I am happy the government spent the time to get the right person for the job. What he brings to this job is the right level of senior government experience and industry experience. That is something that is hard to find."

Analysts said it took Obama seven months to have the right person in the right job and now both Obama and Howard face further expectations from the industry to address cybersecurity issues as a matter of urgency.

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