• United States



Contributing Writer

Howard Schmidt Appointed as New Cybersecurity Coordinator

Dec 22, 20093 mins
Cisco SystemsData and Information SecurityInternet Security

Controversial job search ends, difficult job begins

To quote former President Gerald Ford,”our long national nightmare is over.” After his famous Cybersecurity policy speech in late May, President Obama has finally tapped Howard Schmidt to become the nations first Cybersecurity Coordinator. Schmidt will report to the National Security Council (NSC) and National Economic Council (NEC).Is Schmidt the right person for this job? No question. Schmidt has a perfect public/private sector resume with experience at US-CERT, DHS, the U.S. Air Force, the White House, Microsoft, and eBay. He is also a well respected father figure in the security industry.Schmidt’s appointment makes sense though it did come as a bit of a surprise. One would have assumed that Schmidt’s name was on the short list back in May. My guess is that Schmidt turned down the job at first but when the President struggled to fill this position (rumor has it that RSA’s Art Coviello, Symantec’s John Thompson, and Microsoft’s Scott Charney turned it down), Schmidt decided to take the job out of a sense of duty and service to the country.The President is scheduled to formally introduce Schmidt today and my hope is that Howard starts his new gig tomorrow. Believe me, I’m not joking here. On day one, Schmidt must begin to address several major challenges such as:1. Sophisticated adversaries. On the day that Schmidt was announced, the major security story centered on a multi-million dollar cybersecurity attack of Citigroup last summer. Citigroup is no security lightweight so if its systems can be compromised there are a lot of sitting ducks out there. Cyberwar is a real threat in the next decade. 2. A cybersecurity hot potato. As of this writing, there are a number of cybersecurity bills in committee and a lot of rhetoric on the Hill. Meanwhile, DHS, DOD, and NSA have complementary and competitive cybersecurity roles that need to be ironed out. There has also been massive spending on cybersecurity — some useful and some wasteful. We desperately need a non-elected leader to seperate cybersecurity needs from politics and pork. 3. A real lack of knowledge. Cybersecurity knowledge is in short supply. Business guys know they need to do something but are unsure what to do. Technologists often look at security in myopic terms related to IT. Consumers haven’t a clue. We need a federally-driven education program that spans public awareness campaigns all the way through scholarships and continuing education.This is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg, Schmidt deserves kudos for taking on this nearly impossible job. Have a happy holiday Howard and thank you for stepping up to this challenge.

Contributing Writer

Jon Oltsik is a distinguished analyst, fellow, and the founder of the ESG’s cybersecurity service. With over 35 years of technology industry experience, Jon is widely recognized as an expert in all aspects of cybersecurity and is often called upon to help customers understand a CISO's perspective and strategies. Jon focuses on areas such as cyber-risk management, security operations, and all things related to CISOs.

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