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The White House has tapped a former Silicon Valley tech executive to lead the effort to shore up the country's computer networks and better coordinate government and military systems with companies that operate 80 percent of those critical systems.
Corporate cyber security expert and former Bush administration Howard A. Schmidt, who worked at eBay and Microsoft, will become the government's cyber security coordinator. Schmidt's selection comes after a rocky selection process that dragged on for months, as others turned the job down. The Washington Post notes that at least one of those who rejected the position was John Thomson, former CEO of Sunnyvale-based Symantec Corp.
Schmidt will have regular access to the president and play a vital role in the country's security, said John Brennan, assistant to President Barack Obama for homeland security and counterterrorism in a letter posted on the White House web site Tuesday. Although, he didn't say what type of access Schmidt will have to "Blackberry 1."
The announcement comes more than 10 months after Obama declared cyber security a priority and ordered a broad administration review. A senior White House official said Obama was personally involved in the selection process and chose Schmidt because of his unique background and skills. Schmidt will have regular and direct access to the president for cyber security issues, the official said.
U.S. government computer systems are being attacked or scanned millions of times a day. Hackers and cyber criminals pose an expanding threat, using increasingly sophisticated technologies to steal money or information, while nation-states probe for weaknesses in order to steal classified documents or technology or destroy the networks that run vital services.
It's no doubt there's a lot on Schmidt's to-do list. He even named a few of them in the form of a video clip on the White House blog. May we suggest one of those items at the top of the list is to figure out how to encrypt top secret data on drone missions.