Obama to Appoint Schmidt Top Cyber-security Officer

By Lawrence Walsh  |  Print this article Print


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Former Microsoft Chief Security Officer Howard Schmidt is reportedly returning to Washington for a second tour of duty as the top government official for overseeing the security and defense of civilian and government critical digital infrastructure.

Howard Schmidt, the former Microsoft chief security officer, is reportedly returning to Washington, D.C., for a second tour of duty as the nation’s cyber-security czar, according to published reports.

President Obama, under pressure in the wake of highly publicized breaches of military Predator drones by al-Qaeda operatives, is expected to name Schmidt to fill the post that will oversee the security of U.S. government and civilian critical infrastructure. The New York Times and the Washington Post published reports indicating the appointment could come as early as Tuesday.

If Schmidt, currently the chief executive of the Information Security Forum based in London, accepts the post, it will be his second time in such a position since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

When terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Microsoft sent Schmidt to Washington to lend assistance and coordinate IT activities. Under the Bush administration and the first cyber-security czar, Richard Clarke, Schmidt was appointed deputy director of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Board. Upon Clarke’s retirement from government service, Schmidt was elevated to serve as the second cyber-security czar.

Since leaving government in 2004, Schmidt has resisted calls to serve in similar computer security posts at the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies. Instead, he’s spent his time as a journeyman on the security speaking circuit, consulting on security issues, serving as the chief security officer at eBay, and sitting on several security vendors’ board of directors. 

The Obama administration listed cyber-security a priority when it assumed power earlier this year. However, it has failed to fill the top security post. The first candidate for the post was Melissa Hathaway, who oversaw the president’s 60-day review of security threats and posture. Hathaway left the White House in August prior to her appointment to pursue private-sector opportunities.

In the period since Hathaway’s resignation, the United States has seen a steady rise in Internet-based threats by criminal hackers, terrorists and nation-states. Most recently, the Obama administration reversed the Bush policy of not negotiating with foreign governments on cyber-security issues. He is now in talks with Russia over the demilitarization of the Internet.

Schmidt’s appointment would bring a trusted voice to the cyber-security dialogue, since he has ties through the private sector and government. If appointed, he will reportedly report to the National Security Council and National Economic Council, as well as have liberal access to Obama.

Lawrence Walsh Lawrence Walsh is editor of Baseline magazine, overseeing print and online editorial content and the strategic direction of the publication. He is also a regular columnist for Ziff Davis Enterprise's Channel Insider. Mr. Walsh is well versed in IT technology and issues, and he is an expert in IT security technologies and policies, managed services, business intelligence software and IT reseller channels. An award-winning journalist, Mr. Walsh has served as editor of CMP Technology's VARBusiness and GovernmentVAR magazines, and TechTarget's Information Security magazine. He has written hundreds of articles, analyses and commentaries on the development of reseller businesses, the IT marketplace and managed services, as well as information security policy, strategy and technology. Prior to his magazine career, Mr. Walsh was a newspaper editor and reporter, having held editorial positions at the Boston Globe, MetroWest Daily News, Brockton Enterprise and Community Newspaper Company.

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