Howard Schmidt

By Wolff, Josephine | Newsweek, January 3, 2011 | Go to article overview

Howard Schmidt


Wolff, Josephine, Newsweek


Byline: Josephine Wolff

Hackers and spies have launched attacks on vital computer systems in recent months. White House cyber-security coordinator Howard Schmidt on what it all means.

When you see what makes it onto the evening news, would you say the worry about U.S. vulnerability to cyberattack is exaggerated? Or are we not worried enough?

I would say it's exaggerated. Things have to be taken in perspective, and if you look at the billions of transactions that take place online every day, whether it's e-commerce [or] watching online videos [or] online banking, there's a tremendous amount of really wonderful, rich robust things that are taking place. But like anything else, the things that make the news are the things that aren't working well.

In an interview with Wired, you said you didn't think it was "realistic" for hackers to get into the U.S. power grid. But in light of the successful attacks we've seen recently against well-protected targets, how confident are you?

There are no absolutes in security--we've seen that in the history of humankind.Is there potential for somebody to get into some segment of the grid? Absolutely. We've seen that, we've reported it, we've had law enforcement investigating it. Catastrophic failure is still the part that I don't believe is likely, and anybody who intends to try to do that is probably going to meet more resistance than they're prepared for.

Hundreds of Internet activists recently mounted cyberattacks on companies like MasterCard and Amazon because they had ended their affiliation with WikiLeaks. How dangerous could this kind of action be? …

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