With several cybersecurity bills held up on the Hill, one top White House official has announced he won’t be on the clock while the rest of us wait around to see what happens.
According to the Washington Post, President Obama’s cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt on Thursday announced his plans to retire at the end of the month.
Schmidt, who was appointed to cyber czar in December 2009, played an integral role in crafting the White House’s Cybersecurity Legislative Proposal for Congress last year, calling for the Department of Homeland Security to step up to create new public-private sector partnerships and enhance efforts with industry to better protect the nation’s critical infrastructure.
But as Capitol Hill continues to debate the federal government’s role within industry, Schmidt will leave the Executive Office with little progress having been made in conjunction with Congress to advance US cybersecurity.
Stepping up to replace Schmidt, the Associated Press has reported that Michael Daniel, head of the national security division for the White House Office of Management and Budget, will be appointed as the new cybersecurity coordinator.
Meanwhile, back on the Hill, according to Politico, Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-Conn.) cybersecurity bill is again facing congressional concerns, this time, from Democrats who say the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 “doesn’t go far enough to protect consumer privacy.”
According to the report, Democrats are taking heat from civil liberties groups, “which are growing increasingly fearful that consumers’ data could end up being passed around by companies and the government as security experts share with each other information about emerging cyber threats.”
But collaborative cyber efforts seem of little concern to Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), whose Cyber Intelligence and Sharing Protection Act passed the House last month.
In an op-ed published this week by the Baltimore Sun, the congressman urged that cybersecurity information sharing between public and private sectors would not jeopardize consumers’ privacy.
“It’s important to keep in mind the significant threat that cyber attacks pose to our safety in addition to our economy,” wrote Ruppersberger in the op-ed. “We know terrorist groups such as al-Qaida would like to hack into the lifesaving systems that protect our water supply, power the electric grid and operate the air traffic control system. Our intelligence leaders – including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, FBI Director Robert Mueller and National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander – all agree that we are exposed to a potentially catastrophic attack.”
But the US is not alone in its need to beef up its cyber defenses. According to the Tehran Times, a group of suspected Saudi Arabian hackers on Wednesday took down the website of Iranol, one of the top oil companies in Iran. The news comes just weeks after hackers hit websites of the Iranian Oil Ministry, the National Iranian Oil Company and several other Iran-backed sites.
Giving Howard Schmidt the final word, as posted on the White House blog just three months after being appointed as cybersecurity coordinator: “In order to be successful against today’s cybersecurity threats, we must continue to seek out innovative new partnerships – not only within government, but also among industry, government, and the American public. Transparency improves our collective knowledge and helps bind our partnerships together to form the most powerful cyber tools that we have. We will not defeat our cyber adversaries because they are weakening, we will defeat them by becoming collectively stronger, through stronger technology, a stronger cadre of security professionals and stronger partnerships.”