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Today it was announced that Howard Schmidt will become the Cyber Security Coordinator for the White House. First off, it’s about time the press stopped calling the position “Czar”.
I met Howard Schmidt when he and I both worked at Microsoft. It was right after I had spent a little time teaching helpdesk how to use a Linux boot and root disk to recover a hard drive that a boot sector virus had rendered unbootable.
Howard is a very smart person and a very personable man. The depth of his knowledge and experience definitely makes him one of the best possible candidates for the job. That said, don’t expect miracles or even fast changes. Howard is going to face huge obstacles in trying to coordinate security across a broad swath of government agencies, most all of which will have people who think their way is the only way to do things. There will be budget constraints and the job is enormous.
One of the key challenges Schmidt will face is navigating through tricky legal waters to coordinate with the private sector. The same privacy laws that are in place to protect us have proven to be a stumbling block in terms of closer collaboration between the private and public sector. There is a real need to share information about malware and hacking attacks so that the big picture can be seen, however at times the government cannot share data and at times private companies cannot share data, even though that data would bolster security for government, business, and private citizens. There probably is work that can be done to protect privacy and at the same time allow for better information sharing as well.
I believe that with the naming of Schmidt as the cyber security coordinator we will begin to see some progress, but it will take time and it will be painfully slow… especially for Schmidt. I wish Howard all the best in his new role. This is a really positive move for the country.
Director of Technical Education
Author ESET Research, ESET