Amid rumors that his quick resignation from the Department of Homeland Security stemmed from frustrations with the agency’s lack of attention to cyber security issues, the country’s now former cyber security chief Amit Yoran said that it was understood from the beginning he would only serve for one year.
"When I originally spoke with the Secretary [Tom Ridge] of the Department of Homeland Security about taking the job as director of the National Cyber Security Division ... it was really focused on my skills in creating start-ups and [my] cyber security background. The discussion even at that time was [centered around] a year as sort of the commitment between myself and the department and all the efforts which would be required," he said during a telephone interview with SC Magazine Friday afternoon.
Initial news reports that same day had indicated that Yoran had voiced frustrations with industry peers about the slow progress being made on cyber security issues in the Department, implying that such dissatisfaction was a major reason for his resignation this week. However, Yoran said these reports are erroneous.
"In the past year we've looked at the goals which we set out – creating the National Cyber Security Division, recruiting some of the fantastic expertise from the public and private sectors and building the U.S. CERT and some of the operational capabilities that we've put in place there – and said, 'not everything is perfect, not everything is complete, this is only a base platform to build from, but the objectives of what we agreed upon had been met [and] the term of the commitment, so to speak, had been satisfied...'
"More progress can always be made and this is an area where more progress is needed. I am not dissatisfied with what we've achieved. I am not dissatisfied with these first initial steps, which the Department, and the administration and the nation – both public and private – have taken. These are great first steps and clearly there's a lot more that needs to get done," he said.
But the characterization that his resignation was abrupt is misleading given that an agreement of a one-year term had been established even before his start as director of DHS' cyber security division. He added that this limit was never publicized because codifying "the fact that in however many months I would be departing" would have hampered his effectiveness in setting up the Division.
Early news reports also noted that Yoran gave only a day's notice of his intention to resign Friday.
"I'll let the Department discuss the specifics of the resignation, but again during the course of the year and even before I even started at the Department we had some very specific conversations about the one-year term of the relationship and what we were trying to achieve," he said.
Calls and emails seeking clarification about the resignation and the Division's future went unanswered by DHS.
SC Magazine will offer up additional analysis about Yoran's resignation in its upcoming November edition.