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Obama and Cybersecurity in the US

Barack Obama will soon be inaugurated as the 44th President of the US. He promised change, something that struck a chord with the US public. One thing is for sure—much change is needed in areas such as the US economy, military intervention, and health care. In the midst of all the clamor for change, will cybersecurity get its fair share of attention in the Obama administration?

Numerous trends show how much cybersecurity within the US government needs a complete overhaul. The massive barrage of emails with small, malicious attachments sent to carefully selected government employees continues to occur relentlessly, and there is no end in sight. Several government agencies and even the US Congress have already had a considerable amount of sensitive information compromised as a result of these attacks. Additionally, intrusions into US government systems still occur with regularity. Add to this all the lost and stolen government computers, hard drives, and peripherals containing personal and other data, and the size of the government’s cybersecurity problem starts to appear monstrous.

According to sources such as nextgov.com, cybersecurity is definitely on Obama’s radar. He has been quoted as wanting to establish the office of “cybersecurity czar” within the government. This notion is nothing new, but previous attempts to establish such a position and to endow it with sufficient authority to enable it to succeed have been uniformly unsuccessful. Whether or not Obama succeeds in this endeavor will depend heavily on his ability to gain bipartisan support.

Weak security within US government agency computers and networks is another key issue that Obama needs to address. Some agencies such as NASA have improved their security posture substantially over the years, but most have not.  US computers and networks are in general easy prey for attackers, and efforts by previous administrators to raise the level of security within government agencies have achieved little. One of the biggest obstacles in the effort to improve US government information security will be obtaining sufficient funding. There are currently many critical issues, of which cybersecurity is only one, that require substantial amounts of money. Will Obama fight for and ultimately obtain the necessary funding for making information security better within government circles, or will he turn his attention elsewhere after he encounters one hurdle after another? Only time will tell.

The whole world is waiting to see what Obama wants to and can do. If I could offer him just one piece of advice, it would be to decisively address the ever growing, extremely dangerous level of cybersecurity risk that the US government continually faces. The US desperately needs someone high within the government to own this issue and run with it, and there appears to be growing concern within Congress to the point that partnering with this body in an effort to boost US cybersecurity is more possible now than ever before. Obama has a great opportunity—let’s hope that he sees it and acts upon it.

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