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Obama’s smart pick for cyber czar: Howard Schmidt

The president’s cyber czar has the right credentials for this important job, but he’ll need Obama’s visible backing to do it.

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After far too long, President Obama finally appointed a “cyberczar” on Tuesday. Howard Schmidt has the credentials to coordinate the government’s defense against digital sabotage. Will he also have the authority?

Appropriately, his experience is as deep as the cyberthreat is wide. Mr. Schmidt has been involved with cybersecurity in government (the George W. Bush administration), in the private sector (at eBay and Microsoft), in law enforcement (at the FBI), and internationally (heading up a nonprofit dedicated to this problem). He has both technical and policy know-how.

He also served in the military, which this month confirmed that Iraqi insurgents learned to intercept video feeds from unmanned drones. (The signals have since been secured.)

Schmidt’s job is immense – to orchestrate the military and civilian branches of the federal government as they try to ward off cyberattacks from hackers, terrorists, governments, criminals, and others. That translates, for instance, into preventing the disabling of electric, transportation, financial, and other critical networks.

Cyberattacks on public and private digital systems in the US are increasing. In 2006, the Pentagon counted 6 million attempted intrusions on its computers; last year, it was 360 million. US businesses have also lost billions of dollars in intellectual property to hackers.

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