Ex-cybersecurity czar focuses on global coordination

A former White House cybersecurity adviser is working to build an international cybersecurity partnership program under contract to the Homeland Security Department.

The intent of the program is to coordinate global efforts on cybersecurity and cyber crime, identify gaps and develop "metrics" for measuring success. "It's almost like creating a NATO of the cyber security world," said Howard Schmidt, a former adviser to President Bush.

Schmidt is building the program based on the operational elements of a national cyber security program developed by the former director of Homeland Security's cybersecurity division, Amit Yoran, who left in the fall.

Schmidt said he hopes to have the partnership in place by early summer but those involved are not looking for fanfare. Some companies have pledged support but asked that their names not be used. Schmidt's project complements the separate, private-sector National Cyber Security Partnership, he said.

Through his consulting firm, R&H Security Consulting, Schmidt is on a $383,000 contract to provide leadership and assistance in developing the program for the National Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), which joined forces with Homeland Security last year. Schmidt scaled back his work at eBay to do the partnership work, which he said in a Tuesday interview has been time-consuming.

The contract includes $120,000 for international travel, a figure Schmidt said was an estimate and was arrived at without his input. Schmidt is the only consultant in the firm, which has some administrative support based on the West Coast, he said.

The role of US-CERT and Homeland Security in cyber security is to coordinate the variety of efforts taking place in institutions, intergovernmental bodies and the private sector, Schmidt said.

He said his role has not changed with the departure of Yoran. Among other projects, Schmidt participated in a confidential departmental meeting with cyber-security stakeholders last week in Wye River, Md. That meeting brought together experts from a wide range of perspectives to share views.

One issue debated at the meeting was what information government and the private sector should share with each other, according to participants. Both sides have long said they need more information to better protect cyber assets.

Schmidt spoke Tuesday after participating in an interagency workshop on cyber security held at the Commerce Department. At the event, a new publication was released by the American Bar Association's privacy and computer crime committee. The new booklet draws together key points from three preceding publications on cyber crime, security and privacy.

The Wye River meeting was led by Andy Purdy, acting director of the Homeland Security Department's cyber-security division. Schmidt downplayed the impact on the nation's cyber security of the departure of Yoran and last week's news of the departure of US-CERT Director Larry Hale.

"The vast majority of work has to be done in the private sector," he said. "I'm not that concerned."

But Schmidt did say the level of the official responsible for cyber security is important because it can bring resources and authority to get things done.