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Kundra on Cybersecurity, Facebook and Geeks in the White House

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, Photo: omb.gov

Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra sat down with The New York Times for a far-reaching interview on everything from a team of hackers working with the Department of Homeland Security, the power of Facebook and the geek team at the White House.

Kundra told The Times about the governmentwide push to “change the culture … when it comes to cybersecurity.” He said government employees’ penchant for writing reports “doesn’t make sense anymore for the real-time threats we see today.”

What the feds need, he said, are real-time cyber teams that take a page from the school yard:  a red team and a blue team.

“The red teams work for the Department of Homeland Security,” he said, “and they are essentially hackers going after our own systems, trying to find vulnerabilities. Then they hand over the threats they find to the blue team. The blue team then goes in and fixes the problem.”

Kundra also spoke about moving government websites, such as Recovery.gov, to a cloud-computing platform.

As for the websites, many of them are part of Kundra’s efforts to create greater transparency by providing and publishing data sets online. When they began putting them online, they started with 47 sets. Now, that number is 274,000.

More and more, Kundra said, they are learning how to communicate with the public using tools already available.

For example, the White House used Facebook to “roll out” the 2011 budget, he said, negating the need for building another system.

“We don’t have to spend billions of dollars developing these systems, which would take years; instead we can just put it on Facebook,” Kundra told The Times.

When asked if he is the White House geek, he said the White House was full of geeky fellow travelers.

“I’m definitely not the most geeky,” he added.

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