Howard A. Schmidt
Howard A. Schmidt

Howard A. Schmidt, former White House cybersecurity coordinator, executive director of SAFECode and trusted SC Media editorial advisory board member, passed away Thursday.

His accomplishments and influence over a more than 40-year tenure in cybersecurity, defense and law enforcement are too numerous and expansive to recount in such limited space.  

“Howard was one of the first industry pros with whom I worked when I started at SC,” said SC Media Vice President of Editorial Illena Armstrong. "He quickly became a dear friend and confidante. “Later he played an instrumental, long-time role as a member of our editorial advisory board, providing my team and me with valuable insight, advice and guidance on evolving our brand and stable of editorial offerings.”

Schmidt did not simply pioneer cybersecurity – he continued to whisper to government, private industry, law enforcement authorities and even the president, where, as cybersecurity coordinator and special assistant to the president, he coordinated “interagency cybersecurity policy development and implementation,” as well as engagement with federal, state, local, international, and private sector cybersecurity partners,” whitehouse.gov said.

His 26 years of military service – in the U.S. Air Force, the Arizona Air National Guard and the Army Reserve – and his career as CISO or CSO at firms like Microsoft and eBay, as well as his experience as a police officer in Chandler, Ariz., uniquely qualified him as a security expert – and proved without a doubt that he could adeptly juggle many responsibilities. 

Many of his accomplishments gained high profile, such as his key role in Operation Sun Devil, the Secret Service's 1990 nationwide crackdown on illegal computer hacking activities. As an adviser to the Obama administration, Schmidt pushed to develop the “National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace.”

Schmidt has served as president and CEO of the Information Security Forum, was a chief security strategist for the US-CERT Partners Program at DHS, and was executive director of the Software Assurance Forum for Excellence in Code (SAFECode). At Ridge-Schmidt Cyber, he partnered with Tom Ridge, the country's first Secretary of Homeland Security, to guide business and government leaders through the cybersecurity landscape. 

For more than 20 years, Schmidt was a volunteer with (ISC)2, serving on the group's advisory boards, board of directors and numerous committees. He recently picked up the 2016 (ISC)² Harold F. Tipton Lifetime Achievement Award.

“In my role as CEO of (ISC)², I had the opportunity to travel and work closely with Howard," said David Shearer. "He was always someone I found easy to admire professionally, but the opportunity to get to know him personally is something I will always cherish. We've not only lost an incredible person, we've lost a long-standing contributor to the global security community.”

Schmidt was also a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology's Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC) as well as a professor of research at Idaho State University and an adjunct distinguished fellow at Carnegie Mellon's CyLab. He also was a distinguished fellow with the Ponemon Institute.

His guidance and counsel have influenced countless members of the cybersecurity community.

“Over the years, he has been a caring mentor and friend to so many of us who play different roles in this space,” said Armstrong. “He quite simply was a pioneer who helped shape this industry. I will miss him. We all will.”

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We will add to this story as tributes to Howard Schmidt and reflections on his influence continue to come in.