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Washington Revisited

A new cybersecurity coordinator was named today by the White House. The appointment went to Howard A. Schmidt, the first chief security officer at Microsoft and a co-founder of the company's Trustworthy Computing initiative in April 2001. Microsoft may be happy to see a familiar face in Washington, especially since President Obama was depicted wearing Google glasses on the cover of Fortune magazine in late October to promote a cover story about his purported "love affair" with the company.

A long time public servant, Schmidt became interested in computer forensics as a police officer. When I interviewed him last spring, he explained:

"In the mid-'70s I was a ham radio operator. I built my first computer in 1976 and was involved in bulletin board systems and that sort of thing through the '70s and '80s. When I became a policeman, one of the things we were living with at that time was sort of the older MIS [Management Information Systems] departments that weren't real keen on moving over to a more distributed PC environment. So I wrote a couple grants, and got some federal money to put together my own sort of in-house network of PC databases for organized crime investigations. Because of that, once we started to see criminals using computers -- everything from keeping ledgers of their drug stuff to writing plans on how to rob banks -- I started to work in computer forensics and started to do some of the early development in that area."

Schmidt started working with the U.S. Air Force in the early '90s -- helping the Office of Special Investigations to counter some hacks in the Department of Defense systems, building better processes to protect the systems -- and, in his words, "a switch flipped." He served as an information security advisor to the government for more than 30 years, working for the FBI, the U.S. Air Force and the Bush administration after Sept. 11, 2001. He left the public sector in 2003 to join eBay as CSO.

According to an email written by John O. Brennan, assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, and posted on the White House blog:

Howard will have regular access to the President and serve as a key member of his National Security Staff. He will also work closely with his economic team to ensure that our cybersecurity efforts keep the Nation secure and prosperous.

Read RedDevNews' Q&A, Cyber Crime's Chief Investigator, to get Schmidt's take on secure app development, Microsoft's end-to-end trust model, identity management schemes and the threat posed by mobile devices.

Cyberspace may pose the biggest threat to our country in the coming years. Is the government up to the job? Express your views on best practices for secure software and the role that developers should play below or drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 12/22/2009 at 12:54 PM

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Reader Comments:

Thu, Jan 21, 2010 Eliot Ness

Cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt is yet another Obama Administration Czar Wreck.
Schmidt is a "Distinguished Fellow" of Carnegie Mellon University's CyLab ... whose serious management problems include the cover-up of felony theft-by-deception.
If there were Congressional oversight, Schmidt would never have been a serious candidate for the critical job he now has.
"Smoking-gun" Material

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