New Interagency Group to Oversee Cyberattack Defense

By Brian Krebs Staff Writer
Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Bush administration is planning to tap a Silicon Valley entrepreneur to head a new interagency group that will coordinate the government's efforts to protect its computer networks from organized cyberattacks.

Sources in the government contracting community said the White House is expected to announce as early as today the selection of Rod A. Beckstrom as a top-level adviser to be based in the Department of Homeland Security. Beckstrom is an author and entrepreneur best known for starting, a company that provides collaboration software for businesses.

The new interagency group, which will coordinate information sharing about cyberattacks aimed at government networks, is being created as part of a government-wide "cyber initiative" spelled out in a national security directive that President Bush signed in January, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not have permission to discuss the information.

The presidential directive expanded the intelligence community's role in monitoring Internet traffic to protect against a rising number of attacks on federal agencies' computer systems. According to the sources, the new group will gather information about cyberattacks and vulnerabilities from a wide range of federal agencies, including the FBI, the National Security Agency and the Defense Department. Beckstrom will report directly to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

Reached by phone yesterday, Beckstrom declined to provide specifics about his new position, saying only, "I'm thrilled to be on the DHS team, and I am looking forward to doing my best to serve the country."

A White House spokeswoman declined to comment.

Beckstrom's appointment comes at a time when the government has acknowledged that its information systems have been the target of repeated cyberattacks originating in other counties. The attacks have led to compromises and several large data breaches at federal agencies and contractors.

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