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Technology / Software

Updated: Obama set to reveal US cyber security chief

US president Barack Obama is close to naming a new cyber security chief to help protect America’s IT infrastructure, with reports suggesting that government and IT security veteran Howard Schmidt is set to land the role.

Shortly after taking office in early 2009, President Obama announced a review of America’s ability to protect itself from cyber attacks. At the time, he said that the country was not as prepared as it should be for threats from cyberspace.

“Just as we failed to invest in our physical infrastructure, we have failed to invest in our digital infrastructure. No single agency has the responsibility or the authority to match the scope and scale of the challenge,” he said.

Schmidt, who was previously an advisor to President Bush, also used to work for eBay and Microsoft and has significant pull in the technology industry, according to a report in The Guardian. He is currently president of the Information Security Forum and founder and CEO of R & H Security Consulting LLC.

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Neil Fisher, VP global security solutions at Unisys, believes that the appointment will boost cyber security beyond the US.

“At a time when our vulnerability to online crime and computer hacking attacks is at its height, this appointment will have positive reverberations around the world,” he said. “Howard Schmidt brings with him important lessons learnt during the dot com boom (and subsequent bust), which have been largely forgotten by other cyber ambassadors, to our detriment.”

“While this appointment will beckon Schmidt back to the US, the UK will benefit from a more joined up, coordinated cyber security strategy, in recognition of the borderless nature of the cyber threat levelled at our governments, industries and public,” Fisher concluded.

Update: The White House has now confirmed the appointment of Howard Schmidt as President Obama’s cyber security tsar.

In a letter posted on the White House website, John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, wrote: “Cybersecurity matters to all of us. Protecting the internet is critical to our national security, public safety and our personal privacy and civil liberties. It’s also vital to President Obama’s efforts to strengthen our country, from the modernization of our health care system to the high-tech job creation central to our economic recovery.”

The letter added that Schmidt will have the responsibility of, “orchestrating the many important cybersecurity activities across the government. Howard will have regular access to the President and serve as a key member of his National Security Staff. He will also work closely with his economic team to ensure that our cybersecurity efforts keep the Nation secure and prosperous.”


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