Obama to name cybersecurity chief

by CBR Staff Writer| 09 February 2009

Top aide to head National Office?

 

President Obama has found the cyber tsar to head his new White House office of cybersecurity.

According to US press reports this morning, an announcement expected later today will confirm Melissa Hathaway is to come in as cyber chief, after being cyber coordination executive for the director of national intelligence.

A former consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton, she will lead a review of the government’s efforts to secure computer networks against spies, terrorists and economic criminals, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. 

It remains to be seen if she will be named as Assistant to the President for Cyberspace, a position being recommended after a recent Center for Strategic and International Studies commission said Obama needs create a National Office for Cyberspace, headed by one of his direct reports.

Hathaway chairs the National Cyber Study Group (NCSG), a senior-level inter-agency body and is recognised as being instrumental in developing the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI). 

She has a head for politics, having forged consensus among nearly two dozen diverse organisations and several Congressional committees to make the CNCI initiative work. In security circles the formation of the CNCI is regarded as possibly one of the most significant technology policy events of recent times, and something that could shape the cyber landscape.

Hathaway was a top aide to President Bush and helped develop that administration’s cybersecurity initiative. The Wall Street Journal reckons that a first job for Hathaway will be to carry out a 60-day review of that last initiative, before recommending some next steps. 

Hathaway has campaigned for stronger international alliances to share the responsibility for securing cyberspace, and believes that a fundamental re-think is needed of government’s traditional relationship with the private sector. When it comes to cyber security, Hathaway has urged that the government and the private sector need to recognise that an individual vulnerability is a common weakness.  

The Obama administration has already developed a new homeland security policy statement that includes six key goals.  

It wants to strengthen federal leadership on cyber security, initiate a safe computing R&D effort and protect the IT infrastructure. Also on the programme is the prevention of corporate cyber-espionage, the development of a cyber crime strategy, and to prescribe and mandate standards for securing personal data and disclosure of information data breaches.

 

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