Obama's Smart Pick for Cyber Czar: Howard Schmidt
the Monitor's Board, The Christian Science Monitor
The president's cyber czar has the right credentials for this important job, but he'll need Obama's visible backing to do it.
After far too long, President Obama finally appointed a
"cyberczar" on Tuesday. Howard Schmidt has the credentials to
coordinate the government's defense against digital sabotage. Will
he also have the authority?
Appropriately, his experience is as deep as the cyberthreat is wide.
Mr. Schmidt has been involved with cybersecurity in government (the
George W. Bush administration), in the private sector (at eBay and
Microsoft), in law enforcement (at the FBI), and internationally
(heading up a nonprofit dedicated to this problem). He has both
technical and policy know-how.
He also served in the military, which this month confirmed that
Iraqi insurgents learned to intercept video feeds from unmanned
drones. (The signals have since been secured.)
Schmidt's job is immense - to orchestrate the military and
civilian branches of the federal government as they try to ward off
cyberattacks from hackers, terrorists, governments, criminals, and
others. That translates, for instance, into preventing the disabling
of electric, transportation, financial, and other critical networks.
Cyberattacks on public and private digital systems in the US are
increasing. In 2006, the Pentagon counted 6 million attempted
intrusions on its computers; last year, it was 360 million. US
businesses have also lost billions of dollars in intellectual
property to hackers.
In November, the Government Accountability Office found a 200
percent increase in reports of cybersecurity "incidents" at
federal agencies between 2006 and 2008. The GAO warned of
"significant weaknesses" and "pervasive vulnerabilities" at
While Americans may picture Afghanistan when they think of war,
cyberattacks on the US occur daily. On Tuesday, the Wall Street
Journal reported that the FBI is investigating a hacking into
Citigroup Inc. that resulted in the theft of tens of millions of
dollars - supposedly by Russian criminals. (Citigroup disputed the
story, and said no one had lost any money. …