From zealous foreign nationalists to organized crime to enterprising teen malcontents, the U.S. faces a broad array of cyberthreats online. A war games exercise last year showed the country's cyberdefenses, particularly those guarding critical assets like the power grid and government networks, to be weak and disorganized. This fact has been accentuated by both recent intrusions, such as the infiltration of the Lightning II jet fighter program by foreign cyberspies, and by careless mistakes, such as the NARA's loss of a hard drive containing White House vistors' social security numbers.
In February, President Barack Obama commissioned a 60-day review of federal cybersecurity efforts, and the results of that review are set to air Friday. It is thought that the report will form the basis of ongoing security efforts, as well influencing important upcoming national cybersecurity decisions.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs describes the efforts, stating, "The administration recognizes the very serious threats public- and private-sector networks face from cyber-crime and cyber-attack. The administration has also committed to establishing the proper structure within the government to ensure cybersecurity issues continue to receive top-level attention and enhanced coordination."
One crisis has been the question of which organization to hand the task of cybersecurity. Top candidates are the National Security Agency, responsible for electronic spying and code breaking, or the Department of Homeland Security, tasked with antiterrorism efforts. Top tech and cybersecurity experts have been at each other’s throats over the issue, and have been unable to reach a consensus.
Another prickly topic is whether to locate the head of the new task force in the White House, to facilitate communication with the President on important issues.
However, these issues must be laid to rest in order to stop the latest rash of intrusions. In the last year, millions have been stolen from banks and the electric grid was reportedly infiltrated, in addition to the aforementioned incidents. Cyberspies left behind programs on electric grid computers that could remotely disrupt power services, a mess which is only now being cleaned up. According to a Center for Strategic and International Studies December report, the U.S. Defense Department has its computers probed hundreds of thousands of times per day in preparation for intrusions.
The Obama administration security review was led by a top Bush administration cybersecurity expert, Melissa Hathaway, who served as the cyber-coordination executive under Mike McConnell, Bush's director of national intelligence.
The Obama administration's proposed 2010 fiscal budget calls for a $355M USD in cybersecurity. Among the firms that could receive some of this money are security software providers, defense contractors, and information technology companies. Under the proposed budget, the Department of Homeland Security would lead these efforts and disburse the funds.