President Obama ordered his National Security and Homeland Security advisors Feb. 9 to conduct an immediate review of the U.S. government's cyber-security plans, programs, and activities. Heading the 60-day review will be Melissa Hathaway, who served as the cyber-security coordinator executive under Mike McConnell, former President Bush's Director of National Intelligence.
Hathaway was also named a senior director at the National Security Council and numerous media accounts have mentioned her as a top candidate to serve as Obama's cyber-security chief. A former Booz Allen consultant, Hathaway led a group that developed Bush's National Cybersecurity Initiative.
"The national security and economic health of the United States depend on the security, stability and integrity of our nation's cyberspace, both in the public and private sectors," John Brennan, assistant to the president for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, said in a White House statement. "The President is confident that we can protect our nation's critical cyber-infrastructure while at the same time adhering to the rule of law and safeguarding privacy rights and civil liberties."
On several occasions while campaigning for the presidency, Obama stressed the importance of beefing up the United States' cyber-security efforts while at the same time protecting privacy rights. At a campaign stop in Indiana, Obama said, "We need to build the capacity to identify, isolate and respond to any cyber-attack. And we need to develop new standards for the cyber-security that protects our most important infrastructure, from electrical grids to sewage systems, from air traffic control to our markets."
Phil Lieberman, CEO of Lieberman Software and a 30-year player in the cyber-security field, praised Obama's decision to review the government's cyber-security efforts.
"It is a great idea. The United States has no coordinated cyber-warfare policy," Lieberman said. "Although the previous administration was vocal about its wishes to protect the 'homeland,' its scope was limited to only kinetic attacks. The move by this administration to finally address cyber-attacks is a welcome evolution and a sign that this administration 'gets it' from a technological perspective."
Lieberman said existing laws and legal precedents leave the United States vulnerable to repeated cyber-attacks.
"The U.S. government intelligence agencies and military have been prepared to defend the U.S.A. from cyber-attack for the last 20 years, but the previous administration was clueless when it came to technology and science," Lieberman said. "So, as a result, those that were capable of defending us were kept on the sidelines while we are being attacked."