Network Security, Security Strategy, Plan, Budget

Cautiously optimistic on cyber chief


Optimism, no matter how dosed with skepticism, feels right following the appointment of Howard Schmidt as the nation's cyber coordinator, says SC Magazine Editor-in-Chief Illena Armstrong.

Moderating another SC Magazine Financial Services Roundtable last month I culled some interesting bits of information from the IT security pros who attended. Though I'll cover this event much more deeply in a future edition, some of what participants discussed directly relates to this month's cover story.

Besides forecasting more stringent federal regulations down the road, alongside a shot of heavier scrutiny by auditors and worried corporate leaders of IT security practices, attendees wondered at the benefits of public/private partnerships. They voiced a main grievance that others did for the cover story: In the past, such relationships were a one-way street, reaping little for them. They lacked vigor and heft and, most importantly, details on current and new attacks that either were or would eventually hit their own companies.

And, does government really want to help them, anyway? After all, there's no formal policy in place explicitly stating that during a national cyber emergency, federal agencies will step up to assist private companies – a refrain heard by yet another expert quoted in this edition's main feature.

Pros don't seem to miss a formal union with government, then. Yet, it's one that the White House's new Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt (left) wants to re-visit. This time around, however, he wants to make it much more fruitful to federal agencies, as well as private sector companies – especially those responsible for some 80 to 85 percent of the nation's infrastructure, according to some stats.

Now that a security guy's back in the White House, most of the pros I've connected with seem cautiously optimistic (and you can find tons more of their input in a fatter, online version of the cover story). They commonly repeat: “We'll see,” while sometimes recalling numerous IT security folks who hit the beltway hoping to do some good and then split too quickly amid plenty of rumors and speculation about what led to their often abrupt departures. Leaving various but comparable posts were Amit Yoran and Andy Purdy when the role had been pushed down from the White House to DHS. Melissa Hathaway most recently and, back in the day, Richard Clarke and, yes, even Schmidt, when the job was in the White House.

He's kind of been here before so understands the finesse, intellectual investment, diligence and patience required to propel needed, complicated changes ahead. But, he's only been with the current administration for about five, six months and says that he and President Obama are taking on the many challenges head-on. He's been around the information security space for quite some time. That could be good and, according to some industry pundits often ready with quick snipes, not so good.

Optimism, no matter how dosed with skepticism, feels right on this. And so does patience. We've yet to see what he can do under this newest administration. Let's wait a little longer… and see.

Photo by Aaron Clamage


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