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White House Issues Progress Report On Cybersecurity

Obama administration looks to raise awareness in private sector
President Obama and cybersecurity czar Howard Schmidt both made statements on cybersecurity yesterday, offering optimistic progress reports and encouraging more activity in the private sector.

In its progress report, the White House pointed to recent organizational changes and new cybersecurity initiatives as evidence that the administration is making advances on the cybersecurity front.

"President Obama appointed a Cybersecurity Coordinator to provide White House leadership on cybersecurity issues," the progress report says. "The Cybersecurity Coordinator leads a new Cybersecurity Directorate within the National Security Staff (NSS), works closely with the economic team, and has created a close partnership with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy."

The White House says it is putting cybersecurity into its agenda as a "key management priority."

"Enhancing cybersecurity is a central component of the Administration's Performance Management Agenda," the progress report says. "The Federal Chief Performance Officer has targeted key performance strategies for improving government operations, which include moving to real time monitoring and integrating cybersecurity into system design, rather than bolting it on as an afterthought."

The administration also pointed to changes in FISMA guidance. "This new guidance shifts the focus from departments and agencies developing static, paper-based compliance reports to continuous, real time monitoring of federal networks," the report says. "Risk-based performance metrics are being established based on this real time monitoring, and these metrics will eventually be incorporated into senior official performance plans.

"This change means that agencies will be able to identify vulnerabilities faster and actively protect against attacks," the report says. "The new approach builds on government and industry best practices that will make our cybersecurity efforts more effective."

In a blog, Schmidt reported that President Obama visited a meeting of government cybersecurity leaders in Washington.

"Of course, the real highlight came when the President stopped by to emphasize the increasing importance our society will place on digital communications and information infrastructure as we seek to unleash the potential of these new media," Schmidt said.

"He emphasized the need for continued collaboration between the private sector and government, stating, "that's why we're going to need all of you to keep coming together -- government, industry, academia, think tanks, media and privacy and civil liberties groups -- to work together, to develop the solutions we need to keep America safe and prosperous in cyberspace.”

The progress report recaps a broad range of cybersecurity initiatives in government, including the development of an incident response plan and a new scheme for identity management.

In addition, the report discusses several lesser-known initiatives, including a program to research the risks associated with smartphones and other mobile devices.

"Working together, NIST, NSA, and the private sector have created a checklist to identify vulnerabilities in smart phones," the report says. "Many new phones are actually unified communication platforms that incorporate web browsing, still camera, video, and other functions, but the integration of these platforms creates an ever more vulnerable system by multiplying each unique platform’s vulnerabilities. The use of this checklist can reduce these vulnerabilities."

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