Cybersecurity

Biden to nominate former NSA deputy director to serve as cyber czar

President Biden on Monday will roll out a slate of key leaders to head his administration's approach to cybersecurity, including nominating Chris Inglis, the former deputy director of the National Security Agency (NSA), as the national cyber director at the White House.

Inglis will be nominated to serve in the newly created cyber czar position on the same day Biden will nominate Jen Easterly, another former NSA official, to serve as the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the nation's lead agency involved in protecting critical infrastructure from attacks. 

"Today, President Biden took another important step forward in strengthening our nation's cyber capability," national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday in a statement provided to The Hill. "He will announce his intent to nominate Chris Inglis as National Cyber Director and Jen Easterly as the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency." 

"If confirmed, Chris and Jen will add deep expertise, experience and leadership to our world-class cyber team, which includes the first-ever Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger, as well as strong, crisis-tested professionals from the FBI to ODNI to the Department of Homeland Security to U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency," Sullivan said.

"I'm proud of what we are building across the U.S. government when it comes to cyber," he added. "We are determined to protect America's networks and to meet the growing challenge posed by our adversaries in cyberspace - and this is the team to do it."

Neuberger, who has led the Biden administration's response thus far to two major cyber espionage incidents, said in a separate statement provided to The Hill Monday that she was "looking forward to working with Chris and Jen to continue building back better to modernize our cyber defenses and enhance the nation's ability to prevent and respond effectively to cybersecurity incidents." 

"We will work closely with cybersecurity leaders across the United States Government, the private sector, Congress, and dedicated frontline cyber responders to keep our networks safe and secure," Neuberger said. 

The Washington Post first reported the nominations on Sunday night, with publication also reporting that Biden intends to nominate Rob Silvers to serve as under secretary of policy at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), another cyber-focused position. Silvers previously served as the assistant secretary for cyber policy at DHS during the Obama administration.

Members of Congress have increasingly called on Biden to nominate an official to fill the cyber czar position, which was established as part of the most recent National Defense Authorization Act in December. The former White House cybersecurity coordinator position was eliminated in 2018 under the Trump administration in an effort to cut down on bureaucracy. 

CISA, the nation's key federal cybersecurity agency, has been without a Senate-confirmed leader since November, when former CISA Director Chris Krebs was fired by former President Trump after CISA's efforts to push back against disinformation and misinformation involving the 2020 presidential election. 

Easterly has already served as the Biden administration's cyber policy lead for the transition team, and under the Obama administration as special assistant to the president and senior director for counterterrorism, and as the deputy for counterterrorism at the National Security Agency.

Krebs applauded the nominations of Inglis, Easterly, and Silvers on Sunday night.

"How about that. Jen Easterly as the next @CISAgov Director, Rob Silvers as Under for Policy, and Chris Inglis as NCD are brilliant picks," Krebs tweeted. "Don't forget Anne Neuberger as Dep NatSecAdvisor already in place. My goodness. This is a team."

Chris Painter, the former State Department cybersecurity coordinator under both the Obama and Trump administrations, tweeted Sunday that "this is a very strong team. Chris Inglis is one of the smartest & most capable people I have ever known in government or outside it. He has the chops to make the NCD work. I think the world of Rob & Jen as well. Big talent for big challenges."

The nominations were announced as the Biden administration continues to investigate two recent major foreign cyber espionage incidents and address increasing threats in cyberspace against critical systems. 

The SolarWinds hack, discovered in December, was likely carried out by Russian hackers, with at least nine agencies and 100 private sector groups compromised. As the administration has worked to get its arms around this incident, Microsoft announced last month that newly discovered vulnerabilities in its Exchange Server program had been exploited by at least one Chinese state-sponsored hacking group to compromise thousands of businesses. 

Biden intends to sign an executive order in the upcoming weeks to bolster federal cybersecurity in the wake of both these incidents, and the administration is weighing a response to Russia for its involvement in both the SolarWinds hack and other issues. 

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