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Commission Wants Cybersecurity Chief in White House

Kim Hart

A committee of cybersecurity experts today released a 96-page report detailing recommendations for the next administration on how to combat the growing number of criminal attacks aimed at government networks.

Creating a National Office for Cybersecurity within the White House is chief among the report's recommendations. A top cybersecurity official would help coordinate a national strategy among agencies, and would also work with the private sector to boost defenses against hackers, according to the report.

"Massive amounts of data have been stolen," said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), ranking member of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emerging Threat, Cyber Security and Science and Technology, who is a co-chair of the committee. "There has been massive amounts of theft of intellectual property in the private sector amounting to trillions of dollars. We have to elevate this issue to the office of the president so that it gets the attention it deserves."

The Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency was organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. In its final report released at a press briefing on Capitol Hill today, the commission urged president-elect Obama to create a more cohesive approach to network security, rather than the current patchwork of efforts in individual agencies.

"In hearings on the issue, when we asked who's in charge, they'd all point fingers in other directions," McCaul said.

The commission formed over a year ago at the request of Congress and has been in touch with members of Obama's transition team, who "are interested in formal briefings," said James Lewis, director of the CSIS Technology and Public Policy Program.

Microsoft's Corporate Vice President for Trustworthy Computing, Scott Charney, also a co-chair of the commission, said "fundamental things need to change" in order to bolster security defenses. For instance, 50-year-old telecom laws need to be updated to reflect how companies, consumers and the government use the Internet to communicate today.

The Department of Homeland Security currently has the responsibility of organizing cybersecurity efforts across the government. The commission said the DHS will still play an important role, but an official working alongside the president should coordinate the initiatives of all agencies. The commission does not advocate scrapping the Bush administration's National Cybersecurity Initiative, but rather building on top of those efforts.

"We've got one arm watching for attacks and another one defending the networks, but there's no coordination between them," McCaul said.

By Kim Hart  |  December 8, 2008; 5:55 PM ET  | Category:  Kim Hart
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