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Obama Transition Team Acts On Cyberwarfare

Created: 08 Dec 2008 • Updated: 05 Nov 2012
Doug McLean's picture
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Interesting piece in today's Wall Street Journal about President-Elect Obama's decision to appoint a cabinet level cybersecurity chief. The role as described will be one of those cross agency coordination jobs that has almost no staff or resources but significant influence given where it lives in the government.

I'm generally pretty suspicious of plan to create a new little piece of the bureaucracy that's supposed to magically solve some massive problem...witness the issues that the Department of Homeland Security has had. In this case, however, a small coordinating body might make a material difference. For legitimate security reasons, we'll never know how much effort is being expended by the various military and civilian agencies to address cybercrime and cyberterrorism. But, I'd bet dinner that the bulk of the work is stove-piped inside each agency. This turns out to be the kind of war that requires leveraging the network effect that most of the anti-spam vendors discovered around 2001. The way it works is that if you observe an attack or even anomalous traffic in one location, it's very likely going to be seen in other locations shortly.

The network effect not only works when instrumenting real networks, it works when you get the teams designing defenses to share what they've learned with one another. I'm encouraged that the Obama team has engaged Paul Kurtz to help them pull this program together. He's a good man and if anyone can do it, he will.