The department is preparing to implement the president's executive order on cybersecurity. Under the order, DHS will be responsible for running a cybersecurity program in which critical infrastructure companies — such as the power grid, water systems and financial networks — would agree to follow a set of security practices.
Outgoing DHS chief Janet Napolitano and other top officials at the department have publicly touted its cybersecurity capabilities and said the department is ready to lead the federal government's cybersecurity efforts. DHS has been attempting to assert its authority on the national security issue, which has been viewed by industry as the specialty area of the National Security Agency.
In an interview in May, Weatherford said the deputy undersecretary role is one of the top cybersecurity jobs in the federal government other than the head of the NSA.
“I'm biased beyond any shadow of a doubt ... [but] I think there are two important cybersecurity jobs in the nation right now: Gen. [Keith] Alexander's role at the National Security Agency and the deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity at DHS,” Weatherford said. “Not just because of the executive order, but when you look at DHS's responsibility of working with the 16 critical infrastructure [sectors across] the nation, there is no single person that has broader influence over those.”
McAfee did not respond to a request for comment. DHS declined to comment on the pick.
Names that have been floated for the job earlier this year include Debora Plunkett, a top official at the NSA; Tiffany Jones, head of Symantec’s public-sector programs and strategic initiative teams; and Jeff Moss, a prominent hacker that founded the annual Black Hat hacker conference and also serves as the chief security officer at the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers.
Security experts in the tech community had called for the department to hire a candidate with close ties to Silicon Valley or the hacker community.