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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

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

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.