In view of the SolarWinds hack that exposed several government agencies, President Biden is escalating the importance of cybersecurity. Reuters reports that Biden has recruited a host of officials well-versed in cybersecurity.
To begin with, the new White House picked Anne Neuberger of the NSA (shown above) for the newly established position of Deputy National Security Advisor in the National Security Council. She is best known for leading the cyberdefense division of the NSA and alerting firms global hackers techniques.
Cybersecurity gurus, including Michael Sulmeyer as a senior cyber officer, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall as Homeland Security advisor, Russ Travers as deputy Homeland Security adviser and Caitlin Durkovich as senior resilience and response director, are other Council additions.
A similar focus is mirrored in certain soon-to-be-filled positions. The lead candidate for the newly created position of National Cyber Director is Jen Easterly, Morgan Stanley’s current head of resilience, a veteran of the Obama administration and a co-creator of Cyber Command. Biden is poised to appoint Rob Silvers, another member of the Obama White House, to manage the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The previous CISA head, Chris Krebs, was dismissed by former President Trump after he stated that there was no proof of digital tampering with the 2020 presidential election.
Microsoft VP Tom Burt said in a tweet that this is a ‘world-class’ team of cybersecurity experts.
The activities are a sharp contrast to the Trump administration, which generally downplayed cybersecurity. While the former administration elevated the role of Cyber Command and helped strengthen an Interconnected Cyber Center to coordinate responses, it also dropped the role of the Cybersecurity Coordinator of the White House, cut the digital diplomacy unit of the State Department and fired Krebs. Trump himself falsely claimed that Russia had stopped cyberattacks and tried to transfer blame for the SolarWinds hack to China despite mounting signs of Russian involvement.
The new team can do better to help the US both adapt to SolarWinds attack and defend against future hacks. However, there are doubts that this may not be enough. Former cyber director of Homeland Security Amit Yoran warned that there needed to be a “good balance” between the backgrounds of the public and private sector, and many of the appointments are government alumni. Success will be measured in the willingness of the US to fight off hackers in the future, but it is not clear that many of the new recruits will bring new thinking to the table.