Saturday, May 2, 2009

Cyber chief in White House?

WASHINGTON - THE cybersecurity chief named to battle Internet viruses and larger challenges facing the information technology networks used by US companies and national defence should be based in the White House, experts told a congressional panel on Friday.

Cybersecurity is important enough to warrant a White House staffer with real authority and a real budget, said Larry Clinton, president of the Internet Security Alliance and one of those who made recommendations to the Obama team.

'It can't be just a figurehead,' he told an Energy and Commerce subcommittee. 'We tend to think it should be somewhere in the White House structure.' No date has been set for when, or if, such an appointment would be made.

Gregory Nojeim, senior counsel for the Centre for Democracy and Technology, said his group had urged that the task of ensuring cybersecurity be given to the Department of Homeland Security, not the National Security Agency, or NSA, which is responsible for breaking codes and electronic spying.

The NSA, he argued, was ill-suited for the job of ensuring that the lightly regulated Internet was kept up and running. 'I think it's a very difficult thing for them to handle,' he said.

Rep Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat, noted that no witnesses from the Obama administration attended the hearing.

'The obvious reason is I don't think they know yet what their policies are,' he said.

A White House team prepared a still-secret study on cybersecurity for President Barack Obama which was completed last month.

The study addressed problems ranging from cyber-spying to fighting hackers organized enough to break into 130 automated teller machines worldwide in 30 minutes last November. -- REUTERS

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