Obama takes up the cybersecurity mantel

The Obama administration must decide the future of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative.

The 60-day review of the government’s cybersecurity plans that President Barack Obama ordered earlier this month is expected to generate an overarching strategic framework to determine how best the government can assure the security of cyber space. The goal is to assess existing strengths and weaknesses and develop plans that cross agency boundaries and coordinate with Congress and the private sector.

Leading the review is Melissa Hathaway, who has been senior adviser and cyber coordination executive to the Director of National Intelligence and has played a leading role in coordinating the government’s Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative.

The role of the CNCI, which the Bush administration created, is one of the primary questions for the Obama administration. In December, the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Commission on Cyber Security for the 44th Presidency recommended that Obama create a new cybersecurity directorate in the National Security Council and establish a new White House office to manage cybersecurity. The Obama administration has announced plans to appoint a cyber adviser who reports directly to the president.

Amit Yoran, one of the cybersecurity experts who served on the CSIS panel, applauded the 60-day review, which he said would contribute to effective policy-making. He said it shows that the administration gives cybersecurity a high priority.

Yoran, a former director of the Homeland Security Department’s National Cyber Security Division and current chief executive of the network-monitoring firm NetWitness, said he does not expect Obama to abandon burgeoning projects that are showing promise. Among those begun by the Bush administration and well into the works are the Trusted Internet Connection initiative, in which agencies are working to reduce the number of gateways they have to the Internet, and the Homeland Security Department’s efforts to upgrade Einstein, it’s federal network-monitoring system.

The Obama administration has “the ability to stop this train in its tracks, [but] I don’t think that’s a probable occurrence,” Yoran said.

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