The Biden administration appointed Microsoft security executive Scott Charney and former Lumen CEO Jeffrey Storey to lead the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Council while adding a number of other notable tech and cybersecurity executives with backgrounds in threat intelligence, networking and satellite cybersecurity to fill out the board.
Charney, who previously served on the NSTAC as a member and vice chair, has been tackling digital security issues at Microsoft since 2002, spending the past five years as the company’s vice president for security policy. Among other initiatives, he led Microsoft’s trustworthy computing group, which was responsible for enforcing mandatory security engineering policies across and implementing security strategy across the enterprise.
Prior to his time at Microsoft, Charney spent a decade as chief of the computer crimes and intellectual property section at the U.S. Department of Justice. He also served as chair of the board for the nonprofit Global Cyber Alliance, which develops free cybersecurity tools and resources for businesses and other organizations, until December 2022.
Storey, the council’s new vice chair, is a decades-long veteran executive of the telecommunication industry, with previous stints as CEO for CenturyLink, Level3 Communications and Wiltel Communications.
The NSTAC functions as one of the most high-profile telecom and cybersecurity advisory bodies in the federal government, giving industry advice to presidents and federal agencies on everything from emerging threats related to 5G wireless technology, IT supply chain security, protecting critical infrastructure and the security of national election equipment and infrastructure.
The council is typically composed of 30 individuals and draws most of its membership from the leadership and executive ranks in private industry. It's recommendations are voluntary and non-binding but nevertheless end up influencing everything from White House and executive branch policy to congressional legislation and private sector-driven initiatives.
The council’s next meeting, scheduled for Feb. 21, will focus on foreign actors’ misuse of domestic U.S. infrastructure, while also voting to send a report to President Joe Biden on improving trust in the Information Technology and Communications (ICT) ecosystem. The report was developed through a subcommittee led by Charney, according to meeting notes.
Biden administration adds expertise in threat intel, satellites and networking
The White House also announced the appointment of 12 other new members to the council, tapping a number of well-known individuals within the cybersecurity community in addition to stalwarts of the telecommunication industry.
First-time member Kevin Mandia is a titan of the private threat intelligence industry. His company has responded to some of the most high-profile hacks and cybersecurity incidents across the public and private sector over the years and has helped shape the threat intelligence space for public and private sector entities alike, with even well-resourced federal civilian and intelligence agencies citing their research and findings around ongoing hacking campaigns and techniques.
His company is perhaps best known today for being the first entity to detect it had been compromised by what turned out to be the 2020 SolarWinds hack. That incident led to the compromise of at least nine federal agencies and 100 companies (many of them large and multinational businesses that sit at strategic points in the global technology supply chain), and the early warning from Mandiant (then known as “FireEye”) likely played a crucial role in limiting further potential damage.
A Mandiant spokesperson declined a request for comment on the appointment.
The administration also named Mark David Dankberg, CEO of Viasat, to the board. Viasat was the subject of a massive cyberattack (eventually attributed to the Russian government) in the early hours of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. The incident is widely viewed as one of the most impactful cyber-enabled disruptions of Ukrainian military communications during the war, and Dankberg’s appointment less than a year later likely signals a renewed interest from the White House in bringing satellite-specific cybersecurity expertise to the board.
Maria Martinez has been chief operating officer at networking giant Cisco since 2021, having worked prior to that in a number of executive positions at Salesforce, Microsoft, AT&T and others. According to the White House, Martinez will bring decades of leadership experience to the board around a number of critical technology issues, such as software, services, hardware, and networking technology.
“As the worldwide leader in technology that powers the internet, Cisco is redesigning and securing the core networks that keep us connected and that power critical infrastructure essential to economic and social well-being,” Martinez said in a statement sent to SC Media. “Strengthening the security, resiliency, and reliability of America’s communications infrastructure will require increased public-private collaboration, and I look forward to joining my fellow NSTAC members in advising the president on 21st-century solutions to enable a secure and digital future.”
The White House also named Bryan J. Palma, CEO of cybersecurity hardware and software firm Trellix, a relatively new company that was formed through a merger of FireEye (sans Mandiant) and McAfee last year. Palma led the sale of FireEye to Symphony Technology Group, which led to the eventual merger. He has also spent time as CISO for PepsiCo and served as an agent for the U.S. Secret Service, where he helped co-found the first electronic crimes task force.
Other newly appointed members to the NSTAC include Jeffrey Scott McElfresh, chief operating officer at AT&T; Kyle Malady, president of global networks and technology at Verizon; Kimberly Keever, CISO at Cox Communications; Barbara Humpton, CEO of Siemens; Noopur Davis, executive vice president, chief information security and product privacy officer for Comcast Corporation and Comcast Cable; Jonathan Caldwell, vice president and general manager at Lockheed Martin; Neville Richard Ray, president of technology at T-Mobile; and Corey Thomas, CEO of cybersecurity firm Rapid7.