Threat Management, Incident Response, TDR

Setting cybersecurity as a national priority is just the beginning

A review of federal cybersecurity policies, scheduled for release Friday, will serve as a call to action for the public and private sectors, said Dale Meyerrose, vice president and general manager of cyber and information assurance at Harris Corp., a communications and information technology company.

Meyerrose spoke Tuesday night at a gathering at the New York Press Club in Manhattan on the topic of "The State of Cyberspace in America."

Meyerrose, who served for more than three decades in the U.S. Air Force in communications, intelligence and information technology positions, retiring in 2005 as a major general, said the Obama administration deserves some credit for making cybersecurity a priority. But in the days leading up to the release of the so-called 60-day review to examine how the White House should deal with homeland security threats and cybersecurity issues, Meyerrose indicated that just another report warning of the dangers of computer vulnerabilities will not be enough to secure computer networks from attack.

"The first thing the report will do is set cybersecurity as a priority," he said.

However, pointing out the pre-eminence of non-government players and the fact that 85 percent of the nation's virtual infrastructure is in private hands, he expressed doubt as to whether the government by itself can meet the demands of the new digital realm.

"It we create a cyberczar, that person will not be in charge of agencies," he said. "The creation of czars within government is usually not effective."

There are already 12 organizations within the office of president that claim to have responsibility for cybersecurity, Meyerrose said.

"The real truth is, how much do you do centrally and how much do you do in a decentralized manner?" he noted.

The 60-day cybersecurity report likely will call for a public education effort in regard to digital security, Meyerrose added. He stressed the importance of informing not just leaders about the vulnerabilities inherent in computer networks, but the public as well.

"As we become more cyber-dependent, we need to educate ourselves differently and think differently," he said. "None of us really know what a cyber-9/11 might entail. We might see panic and loss of confidence more than anything else."

"It will be interesting to see if the Obama administration will take a leadership role," added Meyerrose.

On Tuesday, Obama released a statement previewing some of the key decisions he is making in regard to cybersecurity. These include the formation of a new "National Security Staff" charged with supporting "all White House policymaking activities related to international, transnational and homeland security matters."

This reorganization is intended to "end the artificial divide between White House staff who have been dealing with national security and homeland security issues."

The statement further said that the already existing Homeland Security Council will stay in place as the main juncture for "interagency deliberations on issues that affect the security of the homeland such as terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, natural disasters, and pandemic influenza."

The changes are being made to "deal with new and emerging 21st century challenges associated with cybersecurity, weapons of mass destruction-related terrorism, transborder security, information sharing, and resilience policy, including preparedness and response."

The Presidential Study Directive on cybersecurity is expected to be released on Friday.

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