The Public Eye with Eric Chabrow

Potpourri: Washington's A-List of Cyber Power Brokers

Also: Israel Ups Cyber Governance, Panetta's Virtual Attack Warning

The new federal chief information officer Steven VanRoekel and Phillip Reitinger, who until June was the top cybersecurity official in the Department of Homeland Security, both joined the Obama administration in early 2009 and both held key jobs at Microsoft; VanRoekel a onetime adviser to Bill Gates and Reitinger as the company's chief trustworthy infrastructure strategist. Despite the overlap in their jobs, Reitinger in an e-mail message said he didn't know VanRoekel, who joined the Obama administration as managing director of the Federal Communications Commission, but is impressed with his resume.

As for the challenges VanRoekel faces in his new White House, Reitinger wrote that they're well known. "Threats increase every day, as (does) our dependence on information technology," Reitinger said. "At the same time, resources are tightening for government and industry, while the government remains handicapped by weak or calcified authorities, including for procurement and hiring. Like Vivek (Kundra, the departing federal CIO), Steven will need to find the right rhythm to work with his colleagues in EOP (Executive Office of the President), in DHS, and across the agencies to drive progress."

Israel Notches Up Cyber Governance

We're now in a very different world, where we could face a cyberattack that could be the equivalent of Pearl Harbor. 

The Israeli cabinet Tuesday created the National Cyber Directorate, with the aim, in part, to expand the cybersecurity of national infrastructures against attacks and encourage promotion of the issue in the industrial sector.

A statement from the prime minister's office said the directorate had been created following recent attacks on computerized infrastructures that claimed a high economic and diplomatic price, specifically citing digital assaults against the electricity grids in Brazil, banking systems in Estonia and U.S. government contractor Lockheed Martin's computer systems (see Lockheed Attack Linked to RSA?). The statement noted several attacks against Israeli institutions, including the Bank of Israel website in 2008 as well as various institutions, including the Tel Aviv municipal government, following an Israeli raid on a flotilla of boats trying to run a blockade of Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said because of the economic and security importance of cyber, the directorate would report to him. "We intend to put the State of Israel in the vanguard of the cyber field around the world," he said.

Panetta Raises Digital Pearl Harbor Analogy

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta employed the often used Pearl Harbor analogy on defending against a massive assault on America's digital assets.

"We're now in a very different world, where we could face a cyberattack that could be the equivalent of Pearl Harbor," Panetta said Friday in remarks to service members during a visit to U.S. Strategic Command headquarters in Nebraska.

"Someone using cyber can take down our power grid system, our financial systems in this country, our government systems [and] our banking systems. They could virtually paralyze this country," he said. "We have to be prepared to deal with that. We have to have both a good offense and a good defense with regards to the cyberworld."

About the Author

Eric Chabrow

Eric Chabrow

Retired Executive Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Chabrow, who retired at the end of 2017, hosted and produced the semi-weekly podcast ISMG Security Report and oversaw ISMG's GovInfoSecurity and InfoRiskToday. He's a veteran multimedia journalist who has covered information technology, government and business.

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