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3/9/2009
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U.S. Cybersecurity Director Resigns, Blames NSA

Rod Beckstrom criticizes the NSA's dominance of most of the nation's cybersecurity initiatives.

Lawmakers in the House will hear testimony from various experts on Tuesday about the progress of the government's cybersecurity review, which should be completed next month.

Howard Schmidt, president and CEO of R&H Security Consulting and a security expert who has held positions at eBay, Microsoft, and various government posts, said Beckstrom's departure was not unexpected, given the typical shuffling of deck chairs that accompanies a new administration.

Perhaps as a result of his experience in the Air Force and with various government security and law enforcement agencies, Schmidt suggested that Beckstrom's criticism of the NSA was excessive. "If I was back in the government and I was looking for an agency as an organization to help protect my systems, I would be looking to the NSA," he said.

Schmidt supports the idea of a public-private partnership between the NSA and the organizations that own and operate much of the U.S. critical infrastructure. But he also said that in the context of government systems, the kind of secrecy that comes with NSA involvement may be appropriate. "The days of security by obscurity are long gone, but there are things not to be aired in public," he said.

Between the NSA and NIST, which oversees federal technology standards, there's a lot of good work being done for the public's benefit, said Schmidt. "We shouldn't be afraid of them."


InformationWeek will highlight innovative government IT organizations in an upcoming issue. Nominate your agency by submitting an essay on your most innovative IT initiative completed in the last year. Find out more and nominate your organization by May 1.

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The cybersecurity profession struggles to retain women (figures range from 10 to 20 percent). It's particularly worrisome for an industry with a rapidly growing number of vacant positions.

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Is this really a problem at all? Are the low numbers simply an indication that women do not want to be in cybersecurity, and is it possible that more women will never want to be in cybersecurity? How many women would we need to see in the industry to declare success?

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