Cyber Czar a Definite Maybe

December 22nd, 2008 | Sources: NY Times, Wall Street Journal

Subjects: ,

Russia’s cyber attacks on Georgia and Estonia didn’t do it. A US citizen’s big hack into the Pentagon’s computer system didn’t do it. Even a special Congressional commission’s warnings about China’s advanced cyber warfare capabilities didn’t do it.

But Agent.btz did. When the embarrassingly simple, 3 year-old worm infected the bejeesus out of the whole US Army necessitating a costly pan-continental thumb-drive scrubbing, the US government finally got the message.

And now, maybe, it will get serious about beefing up the nation’s cyber security systems. 

The likely starting point will be National Security Presidential Directive 54 a program that has languished since the day President Bush signed it into law.

Directive 54 set aside $15 billion to develop a national cyber security program that would protect the federal government’s computers as well as critical energy, electric and water systems.

The main reason Directive 54 has gone nowhere is the lack leadership on the issue, according to a special commission set up by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

So the commission plans to recommend appointment of a cyber czar, a person that would report directly to the President and have at his or her disposal all the proper diplomatic, military and intelligence tools to confront cyber threats.

The recommendation is likely to trigger the same furious debate around privacy that surfaced during Bush’s domestic wiretapping caper, so the Big O, who long ago recognized the cyber problem and promised during the campaign to appoint a “national cyber adviser,” better save some chips.

Hopefully, the Big O prevails because according to the commission, “America’s failure to protect cyberspace is one of the most urgent national security problems facing the new administration. The battle in cyberspace…is a battle we are losing.”


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