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Ex-US cyber czar advises executive order to protect critical networks

Warwick Ashford

US President Barack Obama should strongly consider issuing an executive to help secure computer networks from attack, says former White House cyber security chief Howard Schmidt.

The advice comes as a Senate cyber security bill remains bogged down in Congress, where Republicans argue it could establish a burdensome government regulatory system for private companies’ networks.

Schmidt, who served in both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations, said that an executive order could help update government network security as well as encourage businesses to secure their own systems, according to US reports.

“If there are things this Congress isn’t prepared to do, the president has a few options that he can move on,” he said.

However, Schmidt has advised national security officials who have warned of a catastrophic attack on a critical system, to temper their rhetoric.

“Using terms that make it a battlefield all the time doesn’t put cyber threats in perspective and makes it difficult to have moderated conversation, especially about business and economic threats," he said.

Schmidt said his first advice to the winner of the presidential election in November would be to do more to fully substantiate the actual risk from cyber attacks.

In the meantime, Schmidt said Obama could take steps to help secure networks without a bill from Congress, such as increase information-sharing between government agencies as well as businesses and ensuring agencies adhere to security standards in their procurement and contracting processes.

In June, Schmidt joined the board of security and compliance company Qualys. The previous month he stepped down as White House cyber czar after two and a half years. Michael Daniel, former intelligence branch head of the White House budget office, is his successor.


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