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Obama to Name Chief of Cybersecurity

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President Obama with Howard A. Schmidt

White House photo by Lawrence Jackson

Nearly seven months after highlighting the vulnerability of banking, energy and communications systems to Internet attacks, the White House on Tuesday is expected to name a technology industry veteran to coordinate competing efforts to improve the nation’s cybersecurity in both military and civilian life.

The decision to appoint Howard A. Schmidt, an industry executive with government experience who served as a cybersecurity adviser in the Bush administration and who also has a military and law enforcement background, is seen as a compromise between factions. Government officials and industry executives say there has been a behind-the-scenes dispute over whether strict new regulations are necessary to protect the network that increasingly weaves together the vast majority of the world’s computers.

Mr. Schmidt will report to the National Security Council — not both to the council and to the National Economic Council, as previously planned, an administration official said on Monday. Mr. Schmidt will also “have regular access to the president,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he had not been authorized to talk publicly about the appointment.

Cybersecurity has taken on new urgency this year in the face of a growing range of cyberattacks and reports of vulnerabilities in business and military computing systems. Indeed, at the May 29 announcement of his administration’s decision to create the position of cybersecurity coordinator, Mr. Obama described how during his presidential campaign computer intruders had “gained access to e-mails and a range of campaign files, from policy position papers to travel plans.”

“It was,” he said, “a powerful reminder: in this information age, one of your greatest strengths — in our case, our ability to communicate to a wide range of supporters through the Internet — could also be one of your greatest vulnerabilities.”

After reviewing the nation’s cybersecurity preparedness, the White House said it would create the position of cybersecurity coordinator to harmonize the nation’s various efforts to “deter, prevent, detect and defend” against cyberattacks.

From The New York Times
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