NSA vet Rob Joyce to lead cyber at White House

The Trump administration has tapped Rob Joyce, formerly the top hacker at NSA, to serve as White House cybersecurity advisor, the position previously held by Michael Daniel.

Rob Joyce NSA/WH
 

The NSA's onetime top hacker is going to work in the White House.

Rob Joyce, who once ran the National Security Agency's office of Tailored Access Operations -- the hacking division -- is taking on the role of White House cybersecurity coordinator.

Tom Bossert, President Trump's homeland security advisor, told the audience at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event on March 15 that Joyce is officially taking the position last held by Michael Daniel during the Obama administration.

Daniel praised Joyce and the Trump administration for selecting him, saying he is a strong pick and that Joyce will make an excellent cybersecurity coordinator.

"He has long experience in the cyber realm, knows the interagency process very well, and has proven himself as a leader at NSA," Daniel told FCW.

Daniel stressed that Joyce is well versed in both offensive and defensive cyber, having worked both in the TAO as well as the former Information Assurance Directorate, which was focused on protecting U.S. systems and networks from cyberthreats.

Joyce worked with Curt Dukes, who is former head of the now defunct Information Assurance Directorate.

"He brings instant credibility to the position," said Dukes who also stressed Joyce's knowledge of cyber offense and defense.

"Two things I think he should prioritize out of the gate," Dukes added, "review of the administration's insider threat program and review of the vulnerability equity process."

Both of those topics came into the spotlight with the WikiLeaks Vault 7 release of CIA hacking data. It is believed that the information was provided to WikiLeaks by an insider, and the release exposed the extent to which the CIA has hoarded zero-day vulnerabilities, which many believe should be disclosed to vendors and the public to increase cybersecurity.

Daniel said that Joyce should focus on "raising the level of cybersecurity across the entire ecosystem, better integrating cyber capabilities into our foreign policy [and] national security tool set, and improving incident response capabilities will be necessities."

Daniel said that on the defensive side Joyce should focus on boosting the security of federal civilian networks.

While Joyce is receiving high praise from current and former government officials, the question is whether the tech sector will warm to a former NSA hacking chief as the new White House cybersecurity advisor.

In the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks about NSA surveillance programs, many in industry became more wary about the NSA and even questioned the information assurance mission and guidance.

Amit Yoran, CEO of Tenable said in a press statement that he feels Joyce has the respect of the security industry. "I'm confident in his ability to work both within the government and with the private sector to improve national cybersecurity," he said.

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