The Obama administration officially selected a senior executive from McAfee to be the Department of Homeland Security’s top cybersecurity official.
Phyllis Schneck, a vice president and CTO for the public sector at McAfee, a unit of Intel, will start in early September as the deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity, a DHS official said. Homeland Security takes a leading role in protecting U.S. networks from foreign and domestic hackers.
She steps into a position that has seen quite a bit of recent turnover. Her predecessor, cybersecurity professional Mark Weatherford, remained in the job for about 18 months and left in April. His interim replacement, Bruce McConnell, announced his departure in July.
Washington continues to evolve their official position on how to deal with the private sector on security issues effecting the general public. One unresolved issue is whether the government should set minimum standards that companies in key industries like banking and energy should meet in order to protect their networks from cyberattacks. Companies wish to establish their own criteria as they continually frustrated by federal regulation that stiffles their competitiveness while doing nothing to help secure their networks from Cyberattacks.
We recently reported that the war on cybercrime continues for many organizations and especially their IT departments and CISOs. The total number of Computer viruses, trojans and web attacks is growing at their fastest pace in four years.
In its recent quarterly “Threats Report”, McAfee said that it had found more than 8 million new kinds of malware in the second quarter. This represents an increase of 23% from the first quarterly report. There are now more than 90 million unique strands of malware in the wild according to McAfee.
In a recent Norton Cybercrime Report, it was reported that breaches of various types claimed 431 million adult victims last year, with 73% of adults in the US alone incurring estimated financial losses of $US 140 billion.
As a criminal activity, cyber incursion is now almost as lucrative as the illegal drug trade. The total cost last year, including lost productivity and direct cash losses resulting from cyber attacks associated with viruses, malware and identity theft is estimated at $US 388 billion.
DHS has stepped up its involvement in the private sector in the past year. The department is increasingly sharing data on hacking attacks and other threats with private companies, including Internet service providers that can block those attacks, the Journal reported earlier this year. Those efforts are expected to continue under Schneck, who for eight years led a group at the Federal Bureau of Investigation that is tasked with helping the feds and private companies share information about cyberthreats.
“We have strengthened partnerships with the private sector to secure cyber networks and protect physical assets,” outgoing DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a written statement. “I am confident that Phyllis will continue these efforts, and build upon the foundations laid by her predecessors, to create a safe, secure and resilient cyber environment and promote cybersecurity knowledge and innovation.”
Michael DeCesare, McAfee’s president, said in a written statement, “McAfee takes great pride in the strong partnership we have with the U.S. government and governments around the world.”