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Untitled Document President Barack Obama has promised to appoint the United States' first chief technology officer (CTO) as part of his administration. The reaction from many quarters is that this is a long overdue move -- the country needs a top officer to ensure that agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services in place for the 21st century. However, our most pressing national IT problem is not so much a lack of vision, but rather a lack of IT security. What the nation really needs is a chief information security officer (CISO).

Indeed, a number of well-placed IT experts agree, including the authors of a December report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) titled "Securing Cyberspace for the 44th Presidency." The report recommends that the president create a new National Office for Cyberspace, directed by an assistant to the president for cyberspace -- in effect, a federal CISO.

The Obama administration took much of the CSIS's recommendations to heart, judging by an outline of its new cybersecurity policy which was recently posted to whitehouse.gov. Most notably, this policy calls for the nomination of a national cyber advisor who will report directly to the president and will be responsible for the development of national cyber policy.

This is a step in the right direction. However, Obama's policy may not go far enough to fix the very serious problems with federal cybersecurity. The CSIS report makes it clear that the national cyber advisor needs real power, and cannot simply be yet another "czar." Rather, it recommends that the national cyber advisor oversee a newly created National Office for Cybersecurity (NOC) within the Executive Office of the President. This office should oversee FISMA, the Trusted Internet Connections initiative, a new regulatory approach for cybersecurity, and day-to-day implementation of the new national cybersecurity strategy. The outlined policy makes no mention of creating such an office.

Also, the new policy outline does not cover securing the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems that control the vital physical infrastructure of industrial operations such as power generation, water treatment and oil and gas pipelines. The interconnected nature of our national infrastructure opens up new possibilities not just for stealing information, but also for wrecking real physical havoc and the line that separates a nation's physical security from its Cyber security has largely disappeared.


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