At Long Last, A Cyber Security Czar
President Obama recently announced the creation of a White House cyber security coordinator who will oversee a national strategy for securing American interests in cyberspace. The coordinator will be a member of the National Security Council, reporting to the national security adviser and the senior White House economic adviser. President Bush started us in this direction by instituting the Cyber Initiative to overhaul the government’s cyber defenses. Yet we remain vulnerable to attacks on systems related to government operations, money supply, electric-power distribution, and transportation. Thus, devoting resources to shoring up cyber security is crucial.
Why do we need to coalesce power in a cyber security czar to oversee the nation’s information security efforts? Ira Winkler offers an explanation for centralizing this responsibility, rather than spreading it across various agencies. He considers complications that arise when multiple agencies engage in cyber security efforts of the offensive and defensive variety. He asks: what if the NSA engages in a long-term project to enter false information into an adversary’s database, unaware that the Army had hacked into the same database to try to track military movements? According to Winkler, the lack of coordination would allow the NSA’s efforts to mislead the Army. Divergent defensive efforts could similarly clash, thus undermining cyber security.
The President’s plan raises a number of unresolved issues. The President hopes to recruit the private sector’s help in devising a comprehensive security strategy. He has suggested building public and private partnerships around cybersecurity. How will the Administration accomplish this partnership? Would it be designed to get input from security professionals regarding government regulation of the private sector’s cyber security efforts? Will the government have a role in overseeing private networks? The heart burn involved in solving these issues is worthwhile given the critical importance of our networks to our economy and the real threat of cyber warfare.
Thanks to Wikimedia Commons for the image.