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Cyber Czar: ‘Solemn Responsibility’ to Protect Networks

Howard Schmidt, Photo: Вени Марковски

The most important cybersecurity goal for the United States is to protect its government networks, which requires effective public-private partnerships, the White House’s cyber czar said earlier this week.

We have a solemn responsibility” to protect federal networks, said Howard Schmidt, cybersecurity coordinator for the Obama administration, at a Dec. 6 Brookings Institution conference.

“I don’t know that there’s any bigger repositories in a single location of data on citizens than with inside the U.S. Government,” he added. “So it’s incumbent upon us to make sure that we’re doing all we can to protect . . . data.”

But, as Schmidt noted, that data often travels over public networks, which means government and the private sector must work together on leveraging effective public-private partnerships.

“We need to make sure that the public networks are being taken care of as well, once again, keeping in mind that the government has got to recognize unique qualities of the Internet and look to do it in partnership with the private sector,” he said.

Schmidt, who was well-known in data and information security before becoming Obama’s pick to head off the administration’s cyber efforts in December 2009, also called for a renewed focus on cyber training, education and workforce development.

The final goal for U.S. cyber efforts is strengthening technology as a tool for law enforcement, intelligence and, perhaps most important in a post-WikiLeaks world, diplomatic efforts.

Diplomacy is not sitting at opposite ends of a room and yelling at each other, he explained, even with nations that have a competitive, or even, adversarial relationship with the United States.

“We all depend on that same level of technology,” he said. “So as a consequence, it’s incumbent upon us to sit down and have those diplomatic discussions.”

Along with the administration’s cyber goals, Schmidt also laid out the principles animating these goals, including strong deterrence against cyber crimes.

Schmidt voiced support for strong penalties for cyber crimes, including 20-year prison sentences “for doing some of the things against the benefits we get from the technology.”

He called such strong measures “pretty good deterrence,” and said, “we need to continue to work that way.”

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