Tags: MidPoint | Schmidt | Ridge | Central Command | Sony | hackers | cybersecurity

Ex-Bush, Obama Adviser: It's 'Groundhog Day' on Cybersecurity

By    |   Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 02:59 PM

Congress, not the White House, is to blame for the lack of a comprehensive cybersecurity plan that might have prevented online sneak attacks like the Sony Pictures debacle and the takedown of US Central Command social media outlets, a former adviser to two presidents told Newsmax TV on Wednesday.

The cybersecurity bill before Congress today looks a lot like the one that lawmakers had in hand almost four years ago, when legislation designed to ensure digital safety while meeting privacy concerns foundered on Capitol Hill, Howard Schmidt, who advised presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama on cybersecurity, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.

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"I feel like I'm waking up in that movie, 'Groundhog Day,' " said Schmidt, who co-founded the computer security and consulting firm Ridge Schmidt Cyber with former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.

The president on Tuesday unveiled a rewrite of the long-stalled legislation, seizing on the Centcom Twitter and YouTube account hacks, and the devastating breach of Sony's computer networks, to urge Congress to act.

Both incidents "show how much more work we need to do, both public and private sector, to strengthen our cybersecurity," Obama said during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity headquarters in Virginia.

The rewritten bill has already drawn criticism, but Schmidt insisted that it is Obama who has understood for years the severity of the problem as well as the balancing act required to shore up security without obliterating privacy.

"We went through a painstaking yearlong effort within the U.S. government to put forward some legislation that's not superfluous," said Schmidt.

"We made sure we met with privacy advocates, the homeland security people and the NSA folks," he said. "We had a wide swath of people who we contacted before we put anything on paper and conveyed it to Congress.

"Once they got it," said Schmidt, "that's where we started to have the problems."   

The bill ran into procedural objections in both the House and Senate, he said, and then got entangled with competing legislation on digital information-sharing among intelligence agencies – which in turn triggered a fight in Congress over who in the executive branch should oversee cybersecurity, said Schmidt.

"There was a lot of stuff that was going to the intelligence community when they should've been going to the civilian government," said Schmidt. "That was argued, argued and argued, and probably will still be in the new Congress."

For all that effort, "here we are … again," said Schmidt, adding, "I can only hope this Congress is really going to be willing to put forward things that would help us, and do it quickly. "

Schmidt said that far too many computer vulnerabilities are traced to our traditional, typed-out user identifications and passwords – which he said are so easily stolen that it wouldn't be a stretch to attribute the Centcom breach to "some kid sitting somewhere," and not some proficient hacker cabal on the payroll of the Islamic State.

He said that new forms of data access and encryption need to be developed and adopted as industry standard.

He said the United States has enough technological capability and mastery of its own to launch counter-attacks –  one of which may or may not have occurred when North Korea's Internet crashed following the Sony attack.

But Schmidt emphasized defense over offense.

"If we do something against them, we are vulnerable," said Schmidt. "Every system in the world – banks in Europe, airports in Asia – we all have vulnerabilities. And if we start this back and forth, sort of this cyber weapon thing, nobody wins in this; we all wind up losing."

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Congress is to blame for the lack of a comprehensive cybersecurity plan that might have prevented online sneak attacks like the Sony Pictures debacle and the takedown of US Central Command social media outlets, a former adviser to two presidents told Newsmax TV on Wednesday.
Schmidt, Ridge, Central Command, Sony, hackers, cybersecurity, adviser
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2015-59-14
Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 02:59 PM
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