Telecom Timeout

May 26 2009   2:30PM GMT

New Obama cyber czar must balance security/economic needs

Kate Gerwig Kate Gerwig Profile: Kate Gerwig

After months of speculation, this promises to be the week that Washington and security experts have been waiting for – the announcement of President Obama’s cyber czar, along with a 40-page report that evaluates the government’s cybersecurity initiatives and policies, according to The Washington Post. The report is expected to take a broad-brush approach to the issue rather than delving into details, which will no doubt lead to an intense security industry debate.

Rumor is that the security adviser will report both to the National Security Council, as well as the senior White House economic adviser. And while no one is against network security, there’s a legal and political hot potato here: What role with the adviser have in protecting private-sector networks? The word “protecting” has become politically charged because the real question is what kind of authority the National Security agency will have over “protecting” private email and phone calls.

According to a new Deloitte Touche Tomatsu report, governments around the world need to address cybersecurity immediately to mitigate the threat of disruption to government operations and commerce, and to facilitate sustainable economic growth. The report makes the case that increased interaction among governments and their citizens will result in an increase in global commerce. According to the report, Cybersecurity: Everybody’s Imperative. Protecting our economies, governments, and citizens, everything that depends on cyberspace — from infrastructure to military operations and national security — is at risk.
Yet wariness among privacy advocates is running high, particularly following the Bush administration’s secrecy in handling its Comprehensive National Cyber Security Initiative, most of which was classified. Washington leaks indicate the White House’s role will be to oversee the process, set policy and coordinate agencies’ roles rather than get involved in operations. Yet Senior White House Economic Adviser Lawrence Summers wants to make sure the National Economic Council has a key role in cybersecurity to make sure that efforts to protect private networks don’t threaten economic growth.

The cyber czar is just one of the Obama administration positions that could affect the telecom industry and the economy, and this week’s appointment may help to ease concerns.

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