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Obama Cyber Security Agenda: The Opening Moves

The broad outlines of President Obama's cyber security strategy are posted on the White House website, and offer both a glimpse of priorities and the chance to ask a few questions.
The broad outlines of President Obama's cyber security strategy are posted on the White House website, and offer both a glimpse of priorities and the chance to ask a few questions.Included in the Homeland Security area of the new WhiteHouse.gov site, the section dealing with cyber security is a mix of both the familiar -- harden our IT infrastructure as a strategic asset, protect personal data, fight cyber crime -- and the new-ish -- national cyber advisor to report directly to the president.

But the agenda speaks for itself, and here it is:

Protect Our Information Networks

Barack Obama and Joe Biden -- working with private industry, the research community and our citizens -- will lead an effort to build a trustworthy and accountable cyber infrastructure that is resilient, protects America's competitive advantage, and advances our national and homeland security. They will: #

Strengthen Federal Leadership on Cyber Security: Declare the cyber infrastructure a strategic asset and establish the position of national cyber advisor who will report directly to the president and will be responsible for coordinating federal agency efforts and development of national cyber policy. #

Initiate a Safe Computing R&D Effort and Harden our Nation's Cyber Infrastructure: Support an initiative to develop next-generation secure computers and networking for national security applications. Work with industry and academia to develop and deploy a new generation of secure hardware and software for our critical cyber infrastructure. #

Protect the IT Infrastructure That Keeps America's Economy Safe: Work with the private sector to establish tough new standards for cyber security and physical resilience. #

Prevent Corporate Cyber-Espionage: Work with industry to develop the systems necessary to protect our nation's trade secrets and our research and development. Innovations in software, engineering, pharmaceuticals and other fields are being stolen online from U.S. businesses at an alarming rate. #

Develop a Cyber Crime Strategy to Minimize the Opportunities for Criminal Profit: Shut down the mechanisms used to transmit criminal profits by shutting down untraceable Internet payment schemes. Initiate a grant and training program to provide federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies the tools they need to detect and prosecute cyber crime. #

Mandate Standards for Securing Personal Data and Require Companies to Disclose Personal Information Data Breaches: Partner with industry and our citizens to secure personal data stored on government and private systems. Institute a common standard for securing such data across industries and protect the rights of individuals in the information age.

Ambitious in many ways, and with plenty of room for expansion and clarification: What authority, for instance will the cyber adviser have to put some muscle into the coordination of efforts. Not to mention what the ">selection of the actual cyber advisor will say about the prospects for actual coordination.

But also some room for expansion of scope and the language the scope is expressed in.

I'd like to see business, as in small and midsized business in particular, included among the industry, academia, corporate mentions. It's no big thing, but would send a signal that the administration understands that coordinating with the private sector means more than coordinating with big IT, big phrma and big finance (what's left of it.)

And, as I've said before, I think one of the leadership roles that can be taken is in stressing and re-stressing the role of personal digital responsibility. It's good that citizens are included in the strategic planning for a data security initiative; be nice to hear some leadership comments about increasing the citizenry's awareness of and responsibility for the security issues on their desktops and in their pockets and briefcases.

How about adding an aggressive and ambitious cyber security awareness component to the agenda and, for that matter, to educational and workforce development initiatives?

It's not like the administration isn't aware of the personal component in all of this, as witness the ongoing dithering about the presidential Blackberry.

And educated populace and workforce, needs to be educated in using digital devices and tools safely, as well as productively.

Maybe we need, say, a national Patch Czar, or an Undersecretary of Anti-Malware updates.

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Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer