Cybercrime, particularly attacks from foreign sources, is on the rise. In the past month, many government systems and systems of government contractors have been penetrated by hackers from China or elsewhere. Meanwhile petty cybercrime also remains a problem with malware, phishing, and botnets a lucrative business for some cyber-criminals.
Past exercises have shown the U.S. to have weak cyber-defenses, largely because of poor coordination between the organizations tasked with our government's security. President George W. Bush and his successor President Barack Obama have set out to improve on this situation by allocating money to security and creating a new cybersecurity czar position to organize the fight.
Two leading candidates have emerged for this job. The first is Scott Charney, head of Microsoft's cybersecurity division. According to a source close to Mr. Charney, Mr. Charney says he won't take the job, however, the source believes that he would change his mind if pressed. In the past Mr. Charney lead PricewaterhouseCoopers' cybercrime unit and before that he worked for the Justice Department's computer crime section.
The leading alternative is Paul Kurtz. Mr. Kurtz served on the National Security Council under both President Clinton and President Bush. He was a member of President Obama's transition team leading the cybersecurity efforts.
There are also a handful of other candidates that stand a shot. Rep. Tom Davis, a moderate Virginia Republican; Sun Microsystems executive Susan Landau; Maureen Baginski, a veteran of the National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation; Frank Kramer, an assistant defense secretary under Clinton; Melissa Hathaway, who led a cybersecurity review for the president; and James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, are all under consideration, says a source.
John Thompson, chairman of the board of Symantec Corp. who had previously been considered a front runner turned the position down.
One thing that adds to the difficulty of the efforts is that the exact role of the job and its authority (and jurisdiction) remains undefined.
Some candidates have already begun to criticize each other. Mr. Lewis struck out at the corporate candidates, commenting, "Some guy from industry is going to write a national security strategy? No, they aren't. You don't just pick this up. You need somebody who knows the national security game, who knows government and who knows about the technology."