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Obama to Appoint Information Security Coordinator

President Barack Obama confirmed Friday that the White House will be creating a new office to be led by a cybersecurity czar. The office will be in charge of coordinating efforts to secure government networks and U.S. critical infrastructures.

By Kristopher A. Nelson in

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Books I've Read: Neuromancer
Image by Myles! via Flickr

President Barack Obama confirmed Friday that the White House will be creating a new office to be led by a cybersecurity czar. The office will be in charge of coordinating efforts to secure government networks and U.S. critical infrastructures.

via Obama Says New Cyber Czar Won’t Spy on the Net | Threat Level | Wired.com.

(Incidentally, can we please get away from “cyber” everything? It’s so last century, reminiscent of AOL and 1984’s Neuromancer.)

Most reviewers agree that this is long overdo, as do I. Critics generally seem to worry that this will simply cause greater confusion, increased bureaucracy, and general inefficiency (i.e., the typical complaint about government).

I do worry about increased government interference in areas that the private sector is better equipped to handle. Historically in this area, police and government agencies have not been effective in dealing with rapidly-evolving technologies, and have frustrated sysadmins attempting to deal with the issue “on the ground.”

Nonetheless, the government has to adapt to a changing world, and this is a necessary part of this. Someone has to coordinate the many agencies charged with protecting both public and private infrastructure.

Interestingly, along with this announcement President Obama reiterated his commitment to privacy and civil liberties, as well as network neutrality:

Obama was quick to add that the new White House cybersecurity office would include an official whose job is to ensure that the government’s cyber policies don’t violate privacy and civil liberties of Americans. He also reaffirmed his support for the principle of net neutrality.

I am concerned about the potential for certain private interests to subvert “cybersecurity” into “protect our intellectual property.” Obama did not do this in his announcement, but making this a priority for the new coordinator could have problematic implications, inserting increasing police powers into what is, at its essence, a civil offense (despite a trend toward criminalization).

My hope is that this new coordinator will quietly improve information security behind the scenes, and we won’t need to hear much at all about this issue. (But that’s unlikely.)