Cybersecurity

What agency security chiefs want from the federal CISO

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Federal security chiefs don't want a boss in the new federal chief information security officer. Instead, they want someone who is willing to collaborate, build on the ideas they've been developing and give them more of a voice in federal policy circles.

Tom DeBiase, deputy CISO at the Department of Homeland Security, said he hoped the federal CISO "will be a voice and a guide for all of those departments." Speaking at an April 5 AFCEA Bethesda breakfast, he added, "Given the requirements of cybersecurity right now, having a CISO will help a lot, as long as it doesn't become another set of reporting requirements. We have plenty of those now."

In a March 10 letter to President Barack Obama, a federal advisory group based at DHS asked that the federal CISO be given authority to implement policy and establish a council of CISOs. But the panel made it clear that the most effective way to gain the goodwill of agency CISOs would be to consult with them and build relationships.

"I'm looking forward to a more collaborative approach from OMB...because frankly, we've got some ideas about how to fix these things," Commerce Department CISO Rod Turk said. "It would be good for the CISO community to have a CISO council, much like there is a CIO Council, much like there is a privacy council...where these issues can be discussed in a collaborative fashion."

The personal touch of contacting individual agency CISOs "would go much further than any sort of memo," DeBiase said.

"There will always be that need to translate across communities" and coordinate across agencies, Agriculture Department CISO Christopher Lowe said. "I think [having a federal CISO] gives us a stronger voice."

Lowe added that "security is a priority that ebbs and flows. After [the massive breach at the Office of Personnel Management], obviously it was very high. So I think the usefulness in having that federal CISO is that louder voice that we can go to and be our advocate."

DeBiase said a successful first federal CISO would be someone who already has influence in the community, not someone who thinks the job offers a lot of power. The incoming CISO shouldn't "try to control the government or government CISOs. Work with us...and be a partner to all of us."

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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