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White House Cybersecurity Chief Slams Federal Security Efforts

Although agencies are improving cybersecurity at the national level, the federal approach to securing U.S. interests online still leaves much to be desired, a high-ranking Obama administration official said.

Howard Schmidt, the White House's cybersecurity coordinator, called for enterprisewide network intrusion detection and math and science training in U.S. schools. He also cited a lack of coordination in the government's cyber research and development.

"As far as enterprisewide intrusion detection goes, it falls under the category of, ‘Why haven't we done that already?' " Schmidt said at the Interagency Resources Management Conference in Cambridge, Md., April 13. "It's a big point of discussion."

The commercial sector is deploying intrusion detection technology on private networks, but the federal government is lagging, dogged by bureaucracy and disputes over privacy and how best to implement such a strategy, he said.

Furthermore, the U.S. education system is failing to prepare future cyber warriors, Schmidt said. "We need to work on math and science training in our schools," he said. "That relates directly to the future of cybersecurity."

A working group is being established to examine the issue and make recommendations to the White House on how to develop a cyber career path at American schools. Efforts are also under way to promote cyber careers at the college level by offering scholarships and government service programs, Schmidt said. Currently, there are about 100 colleges involved in the effort -- a number Schmidt hopes will soon increase as his office finds ways to expand the program.

Although many, if not most, federal agencies are creating offices to deal with cybersecurity, those efforts are not in sync, Schmidt said. "There's little coordination in cyber research and development," he added." Who's doing what? Why are they doing that? How long have they been doing that? What is missing?"

The Homeland Security Department is leading the effort to link cyber efforts across the government through its centers of excellence, Schmidt said.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff reporter covering defense and national security.

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