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New cyber czar has tough job ahead

White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt.

TEXT OF STORY

Bob Moon: It was all the way back in May when President Obama said he'd appoint a government cybersecurity coordinator -- one person to set standards for protecting the sensitive data, military and civilian, that flows through cyberspace. Today the White House announced that person will be Howard Schmidt, formerly of Microsoft and eBay. Marketplace's John Dimsdale takes a look at who the new cyber czar is and why it took more than six months for the president to find him.


JOHN DIMSDALE: Howard Schmidt also has experience developing computer security for the Army, Air Force, and FBI. And that'll come in handy, says David Farber at the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science. He says the cyber czar's top priority should be securing sensitive information on computers at the Pentagon and the Treasury Department.

DAVID FARBER: In the case of things like Treasury, Federal Reserve, etc., you have direct impact on the commercial sector. Because in order to secure your environment you have to secure those commercial players that are part of your business.

Coincidentally, the Wall Street Journal reported today the FBI is investigating a Russian hacker attack on Citigroup bank.

Tom Kellermann, with Core Security Technologies, says cyber crime has gotten dramatically worse in the last 10 years.

TOM KELLERMANN: The rule of law does not apply to cyberspace. Only one-sixth of the world's countries have cybercrime laws. And you have over a trillion dollars in economic losses to the world economies on an annual basis due to merely the theft of intellectual property. Not even the financial frauds that we've been hearing about.

The administration's May announcement of a new cybersecurity czar sparked a vicious turf battle. In the end, the president decided the czar would answer to the National Security Agency.

And cyberspace economist Robert Cohen says it was also tough to find someone willing to take the job.

ROBERT COHEN: If, god forbid, the Pentagon got hacked, how would you feel if you were in charge of making sure that this kind of vulnerability didn't occur? You'd just have egg all over your face.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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