Schmidt: Cyber Key to National Economy


It’s no secret that the government and the country have been facing financial difficulties the past few years, but one of the best ways to help combat that is increased online security that can help fuel online commerce, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt said.

Speaking at the 2012 McAfee Public Sector Summit at the Pentagon City Ritz-Carlton on Wednesday, Schmidt said $8 trillion in business is done over wireless networks each year and, last year, the holiday season saw a 17 percent increase in the amount of goods purchase online.


“Although we’ve had our challenges,” Schmidt said, “we’re getting to a better place.”

Increased commerce online translates into more goods being manufactured, more jobs, more tax revenue and a healthier economy in general, but one that can be fragile and needs protection.

Schmidt pointed to himself as an example: During a trip last week to the Midwest, he bought a plane ticket, checked the status of his flight, did some banking, answered his work email and bought a part for his Harley Davidson motorcycle on eBay, all from his mobile phone.

Schmidt said that the fight to secure information networks and cyberspace is continually improving: there is enough talent doing the rights things with the right technology on an improving architecture to keep systems protected. The problem comes in the scalability of the web as the increase of devices connected grows at an exponential rate that is creating holes in the armor.

“It’s always a good aspiration to be fully secure, but we realize that’s a dream,” Schmidt said. “What we need to do is make sure we are always meaningfully secure.”


Going forward, Schmidt said the federal government will take a more active approach to cybersecurity. Up until now, the focus has been devising strategies and guidelines, but now is the time to take action.

More highlights from his talk:

  • The three guiding principles for cyber are: people don’t have to agree on everything, but something has to be done; meaningful security is possible and technology is important, but business processes are superior.
  • Schmidt says the “Bring Your Own Device” strategy to mobility is a good way to go, but opens agencies up to malware risks.
  • Continuous monitoring and active risk management needs to become staples of every government organization.
  • One in 10 Americans have malware on their personal computer.
  • Schmidt says he doesn’t understand why there is such a big debate about cyber requirements for critical infrastructure operators.
  • Smart grid infrastructure will be hugely important going forward.

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