Uncle Cyber Sam wants you

Obama administration makes a full-court press to engage industry and the public in the crusade against cyber war

All of a sudden, the cyber spooks and watchdogs in the Obama administration are coming out of the shadows, making a full-court press to engage industry and the public in their crusade against cyber war.

Howard Schmidt, the president’s new cybersecurity chief, Janet Napolitano, homeland security secretary, and FBI Director Robert Mueller made sequential keynote addresses in early March at the RSA Conference in San Francisco. Schmidt made the biggest news, opening the “Einstein 3 Kimono,” as Richi Jennings of Computerworld’s IT Blogwatch put it, referring to the unveiling of the super-secret Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative and a summary of its 12-point program.

Einstein 3 is a next-generation tool the government is developing to protect the civilian government domain. The summary said the program “will draw on commercial technology and specialized government technology to conduct real-time full packet inspection and threat-based decision-making on network traffic entering or leaving these executive branch networks.”

It's definitely eye-opening, wrote Kit Eaton of Fast Company. “And while you may suspect that Schmidt could only reveal the tiniest of details about such an important plan, he actually spilled quite a few beans in an attempt to get academics and private companies to buy into the government's plans.”

Napolitano, appearing the next day, said public education will be a critical part of the agency’s strategy. She announced the launch of a new competition that asks any and all comers for help in designing a cybersecurity public awareness campaign. Her ambition is “comparable in scale to forest fire and smoking prevention campaigns,” wrote Alejandro Martinez-Cabrera in SFGate’s The Tech Chronicles.

You can go to www.dhs.gov/cyberchallenge to submit your ideas. And, of course, they will remain confidential.

About the Author

David Rapp is editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week and VP of content for 1105 Government Information Group.

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Reader comments

Thu, Mar 11, 2010

It's a good thing that the pioneer spirit of days gone by didn't wait for every inevitable possibility to be resolved before going west and staking you ground. Imagine if they had to wait for the government to defend them from internal threats. We all would be east coast.

Mon, Mar 8, 2010 Carlos wisconsin

http://www.linkedin.com/in/carloserodriguez Finally Microsoft gets it. They finally understand that selling an OS with not network security is bad for their businees too. Microsoft is offering FREE virus and malware protection for the windows family of PC's. But we need more. Systems that go on the net or connect interfaces, must be inheritantly safe. This is the big problem. Systems are going in the network that can not stand an attack. Owning a CAR includes brakes with it. Why do we have PC's with no brakes or door looks. PC OS's are a defective product and that is the source. We wanted a free and friendly communication medium, but the criminals do not care and are taking advantage of that.

Mon, Mar 8, 2010

Normally, I would say this is a positive development. As an IT professional, cybersecurity is important to me. But in the hands of the current administration, this scares the daylights out of me.

Mon, Mar 8, 2010 Jim Maryland

Great news! It seems as roughly the IT equivalent of fort-building in colonial times, offering protection to important but nonetheless very small patches of ground. The question is when will the nation's IT defense systems progress to the point of protecting JQ Citizen against attacks from outside our borders, then ultimately defending internal threats? American businesses and individuals spend inordinate amounts of otherwise productive time defending and worrying about various levels of cyber-attacks at all levels.

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