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Report: U.S. to get its first cyber security czar this week

cyber security, hack, Obama, National Cybersecurity CenterNow that President Obama has named Sonia Sotomayor as his choice for the nation's highest court, he is expected to this week select a "cyber czar" to act as the U.S.'s highest-ranking cyber security official, The Washington Post reports today. The person assuming this newly created position will be responsible for protecting the country's government-run and private computer networks and will likely get a seat on the National Security Council.

Obama announced today that he is folding White House staff focusing on homeland security and counterterrorism into the National Security Council, The Boston Globe reports. The cyber czar will likely report both to the national security adviser and the senior White House economic adviser, a move that would indicate a desire to protect private networks without threatening economic growth, according to the Post, citing anonymous sources.

In the past, cyber security officials at the national level were part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and reported to that department's secretary or someone else within the department rather than directly to the White House. A general lack of empowerment has caused several high-profile security professionals to come and go, including Rod Becskstrom, who resigned in March as director of Homeland Security's National Cyber Security Center. In his resignation letter (available via Wired), Beckstrom stated that the National Security Agency "dominates most national intelligence efforts" and noted that the center last year "received only five weeks of funding, due to various roadblocks engineered within the department and by the Office of Management and Budget."

President Obama signaled shortly after taking office that he would shake up the way the federal government manages cyber security. In February, he ordered a 60-day interagency review of all cyber-security related plans, programs, and activities. National security and Homeland Security advisors last month delivered a 40-page report describing the state of the U.S. government's cyber security efforts. Although the report has not yet been made public, it is expected to, among other things, offer the president recommendations regarding the role of the new cyber czar.

See ScientificAmerican.com's In-Depth Report on privacy and security for more coverage of the topics the new cyber czar is likely to face.

Image ©iStockphoto.com/ Yong Hian Lim

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