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Obama plans to appoint cybersecurity czar

May 26, 2009 _ 14:22 / Digital Nation Team / comments (0)

The Washington Post reports today that President Obama will create a "cyber czar" position to develop and manage a strategy for protecting the nation's government-run and private security networks. The adviser would likely be a member of the National Security Council, although it's not yet clear how the adviser's role will fit in with the National Security Agency's efforts on electronic surveillance and defense. The creation of the position is likely to raise debate about Internet privacy. The Post continues:

The announcement will coincide with the long-anticipated release of a 40-page report that evaluates the government's cybersecurity initiatives and policies. The report is intended to outline a "strategic vision" and the range of issues the new adviser must handle, but it will not delve into details, administration officials told reporters last month.
Cybersecurity "is vitally important, and the government needs to be coordinated on this," a White House official said Friday, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "The report give conclusions and next steps. It's trying to steer us in the right direction."

The topic of cybersecurity came up several times in our live forum today with military technology experts, including Lt. Gen. Robert J. Elder, who served as the first commander of Air Force Network Operations and led the development of the cyberspace mission for the Air Force. You can view the full transcript here (click the "replay" button), and below are some excerpts from the discussion:

Digital Nation: Elaborating on Mr. Nguyen's comment above: He states that the financial investment required to secure all the various networks is borderline excessive. General Elder, how do you approach the costs of securing networks?
General Elder: The cost to secure networks is not nearly as large as physical security costs; however, the key is to get individuals focused on self-defense rather than depending on just security. There are a variety of ways to protect data at rest and in motion; few people or organizations use them.
Digital Nation: Mr. Nguyen states: "The commanders will always side on getting more intel from more sensors but ultimately the cost of obtaining information is lost." General Elder, do you agree? How serious a problem is this?
General Elder: We need to spend more money on information fusion and decision support capabilities. We must remember that sensors only provide data; we need to do analysis of data to get intelligence that we can use.
Comment from atacms: Gen. Elder, isn't this our Achilles heal? Software and its reliability? Consider all the hacking and phreaking that has been going on courtesy of Russia and China and yet our software DOESN'T seem to be getting more secure.
General Elder: We are more vulnerable to hacking than groups that are not dependent on cyberspace to do their missions, that is true.
Digital Nation: Regarding the issue of cybersecurity, General Elder, what do we consider to be an act of war in cyberspace?
General Elder: Act of war is not yet defined ... that is a political assessment; however, it seems that something that impaired public safety (air traffic control), or degraded our economic systems would be viewed as a possible trigger.
Digital Nation: General Elder, looking down the road, what do you see as the biggest cybersecurity threats to be dealt with in the next 5 years?
General Elder: Biggest threats are altering data or code so that we lose trust in use of the internet to enable our business and soclal networks. We focus on loss of data ... but we have technology to protect against loss of data today, we just need to use it. Protecting against alteration of data is a bit more complex.

The discussion was very interesting, covering topics as diverse as virtual-reality treatment for PTSD and the use of drones in a counterinsurgency, so I suggest you check out the full transcript.

-Jeff

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posted February 2, 2010

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