Cyber czar: Networks in the U.S. are riddled with vulnerabilities

In a rare public appearance
Thursday, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt warned that U.S.
networks are riddled with vulnerabilities that can be exploited by thieves and

“Why do we keep seeing these
problems over and over again? Because we have vulnerabilities,” Schmidt

Schmidt compared America’s
cybersecurity situation to a military base with holes in the fence.

“It shouldn’t be that way in
cybersecurity,” Schmidt said. “We need to deny [hackers] the capabilities to
get through the fence.”

Schmidt’s appearance Thursday
at an event of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics
Association provided a rare look into the White House’s thinking on
cybersecurity issues. Citing executive privilege, Schmidt has refused to
testify before the Homeland Security Committee, which approved comprehensive
cybersecurity legislation last week.

Schmidt said the White House
takes individual privacy into account before all of its cybersecurity policy

“It’s an interesting question
about privacy. The  president is committed to it, everybody on our staff
is committed to it. But it’s not a zero-sum game,” Schmidt said. “There are no
absolutes in this area — which weighs heavier depends on the circumstances.”

Schmidt said the White House
is focused on cybersecurity as a national security and economic issue, which is
why he is working on it as a member of the National Security Council and the
National Economic Council.

Schmidt said he is focused on
ensuring that U.S. networks can bounce back quickly from attempted
cyber-attacks. He stressed that systems must be designed so they can be
restored quickly after any disruptions or outages.

Schmidt promoted
cybersecurity initiatives inside the government such as the Trusted Internet
Connection program, which will dramatically reduce the number of outside
Internet connections within federal agencies. He also said the government is
shifting its emphasis from annual cybersecurity audits to active, continuous
monitoring of its networks.

“While it’s great to write reports, let’s actually do something
to make our systems less vulnerable,” Schmidt said.


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