Naming of interim cyber chief not the solution, industry says

The naming of an interim director for cybersecurity at the Homeland Security Department would not resolve larger problems of how the issue is addressed in the federal government, industry sources said Wednesday.

Sources said the department internally circulated the announcement Tuesday that Donald "Andy" Purdy, the deputy director of the department's cybersecurity division, soon will be named to replace former director Amit Yoran, who resigned on short notice last week.

Paul Kurtz, executive director of the Cyber Security Industry Alliance and a former presidential adviser on critical infrastructure protection, worked with Purdy in the White House during the development of the February 2003 National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace. He praised Purdy but said, "I think the focus should be on the position, not the incumbent."

"So often in Washington, it's the perch from which you sit and the authority you have," he said. Authority, control over budgets and access to senior administration officials are key to getting things done, he said. "The way it's structured now, I don't see that happening," Kurtz added. "You could put a lot of people in that spot and it won't happen."

Kurtz echoed others in industry in supporting a provision now in the House intelligence reform bill that would elevate cybersecurity two levels within the department, from the current rank of director up to assistant secretary.

Kurtz argued that the department's concern that elevating the position would separate the protection of physical and cyber infrastructures is not logical because both areas still would be overseen by the undersecretary for information analysis and infrastructure protection.

He said that the nature of cybersecurity is "wholly different" from physical security and that moving cyber security beside physical security, instead of under it, would improve the ability to focus on physical security. Currently, the cybersecurity director reports to the assistant secretary for infrastructure protection.

Another information security source said Purdy is not well-known to industry. Besides Yoran, a former Symantec executive, past cybersecurity leaders in the administration have included White House cybersecurity "czar" Richard Clarke and Howard Schmidt, former co-chair of the White House Critical Infrastructure Protection Board. The source said Purdy is "just not in their league."

Trained as a lawyer, Purdy previously served on the president's critical infrastructure board focused on information security and privacy. Before that, he served as acting general counsel for the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and on the House Ethics Committee and the House select committee that investigated President John F. Kennedy's assassination. He also was a producer for NBC News and CBS News.

Purdy filled in for Yoran at a Wednesday forum on the common criteria being developed for information security. He did not discuss Yoran's departure but outlined department activities and called for industry to do more to protect information. He said there would be a greater focus on a national cybersecurity strategy "in the weeks and months ahead."