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Perimeter

5/27/2009
02:55 PM
John H. Sawyer
John H. Sawyer
Commentary
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U.S. Cyber Czar On The Horizon; New Legislation, Too?

The buzz surrounding President Obama's efforts at securing our cyber-infrastructure is audible. The release of a 60-day review of the government's cybersecurity efforts, which started back in February, is expected soon, along with the naming of a new White House official -- a "cyber czar," as some are calling the position -- who will reportedly have purview over developing a strategy for securing both government and private networks.

The buzz surrounding President Obama's efforts at securing our cyber-infrastructure is audible. The release of a 60-day review of the government's cybersecurity efforts, which started back in February, is expected soon, along with the naming of a new White House official -- a "cyber czar," as some are calling the position -- who will reportedly have purview over developing a strategy for securing both government and private networks.While we're all waiting, I'm left wondering how far government will go to help protect not only itself, but private industry. And will it be enough? I've personally seen positive changes come about as a result of HIPAA, but it has been far from a silver bullet. The lack of understanding about responsibilities regarding IT (like secure wireless networking) I've seen at smaller doctors' offices is frightening.

I should narrow my "Is it enough?" question to be a little more specific: How committed is the government to protecting not only its own networks, but those of private companies (and individuals), and to getting the word out to small businesses about what they are supposed to be doing? Who will be responsible for making sure companies, and possibly individuals, comply with any legislation brought forth as result of the report and cyber czar?

We've seen other governments try to protect its citizens and companies from security issues posed by such threats as unsecured wireless networks and inappropriate Web content. For example, at the beginning of this year, several articles covered the efforts by India's police in Mubai who were searching for and eliminating open wireless networks. The campaign was a result of terrorists using unsecured wireless networks for their communications and eavesdropping on others communications.

In addition, right now Australia is working with ISPs to test content filtering options to protect its citizens against offensive content, such as child pornography. While the country's intentions are good, it's unlikely its efforts will be effective on a wide scale considering how easy it is to bypass content filtering systems. Even it direct attempts at evasion were not much of a concern, the issue of keeping up with all of the "bad" content out there is likely to be quickly overwhelming.

I'm willing to keep my fingers crossed that the Obama administration can pull this off, even it only partially successful, but I'm not blindly hopeful. In the past (and currently), legislation aimed at IT security has been a cause for companies to cover up breaches to avoid paying costly notifications and possible fines. At this point, I'm resigned to sitting back and watching what happens. At the very least, I'm sure the report will be an interesting read.

John H. Sawyer is a senior security engineer on the IT Security Team at the University of Florida. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are his own and do not represent the views and opinions of the UF IT Security Team or the University of Florida. When John's not fighting flaming, malware-infested machines or performing autopsies on blitzed boxes, he can usually be found hanging with his family, bouncing a baby on one knee and balancing a laptop on the other. Special to Dark Reading.

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