Sizing Up Obama's Plans for Cyber-security

The much-anticipated U.S. cyber-security review ordered by President Barack Obama is now out in the open. But the question of how best to implement its suggestions remains. Members of the security community share their thoughts with eWEEK about where they would like to see the federal government begin.

Now that the 60-day review of America's cyber-security strategy is public, the hard part can begin.

With the challenge of implementing policies to shore up the nation's cyber-infrastructure lying ahead, some in the security community shared their thoughts on the first steps the Obama administration should take on the path to a more secure Internet.

Click here to read about five hacks of government systems that will challenge Obama's cyber-security plans.

Although there have been attempts in the past to enact security standards, many were toothless and unenforceable, opined Lumension CEO Pat Clawson. That has to change.

"There has to be some level of authority given to the cyber-security czar to consolidate civilian and government entities as well as the DOD's [Department of Defense's] (at some level) existing security state and policies to affect change," Clawson blogged. "Currently, we do not have a clear understanding [of] where we, as a country, sit today relative to our risk posture, let alone where we'd like to be or what it'll take to get there. A real-time gap analysis will provide a crystal-clear view into areas of weakness that must be addressed right away versus weaknesses that can be addressed in due time, taking a risk-based approach, so to speak."

What kind of cyber-security czar do we want? Click here to read more.

With just its purchasing power alone, the government has the power to effect change, Gartner analyst John Pescatore said. For example, the federal government could require that all its software purchases include clauses mandating vendors show evidence that their software has been run though a commercial application-vulnerability testing service.

"The bottom line is the government using its purchasing power to drive lower vulnerabilities in software and systems, not to focus on trying to collect attack data," Pescatore said.

The government, he added, should focus more on prevention than detection, as combining the two functions often results in lower security.

"The goals are different-one wants to let the attacks happen to keep track of the opponent, the other just wants the opponent to attack someone else," Pescatore said. "It is sort of like depending on the guy sitting in a fire tower to prevent forest fires-his approach is to look for smoke, and by then it is too late for prevention."