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RSA The US's latest chief of cyber security has pledged quick and determined action to protect the nation's critical infrastructure from attack.

Greg Garcia, the first assistant secretary for cyber security and telecommunications, said he will work "vigorously" with the private and public sectors to devise common practices and policies and test preparedness. He committed to a state and federal IT drill in March 2008 based on a number of attack scenarios - echoing last year's Cyber Storm drill.

Speaking at the RSA IT security conference in San Francisco on Thursday, Garcia conceded the security industry and press would be looking for results - or "holding everyone's feet to the fire".

"It's a shared responsibility," he said.

Garcia was appointed four months ago by Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff - the man derided for his department's snail-pace response to the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe in 2005.

Garcia will implement President Bush's four-year-old National Strategy for Securing Cyberspace, which has spluttered along thanks to political indifference and rapid turnover among the top staff.

Summing up the lack of progress, Garcia said somewhat diplomatically: "We've made great strides towards securing networks, recognizing vulnerabilities, raising awareness and increasing responsiveness, but much work remains to be done."

Many IT security companies have been perturbed by this instability and lack of political commitment, and they have welcomed the arrival of Garcia, an experienced Washington insider - he was a member of the House Science Subcommittee on Research and a former vice president of the Information Technology Association of America.

RSA attendees on Thursday re-iterated their hopes for Garcia’s success. Garcia "exudes leadership - and that's what this program needs. It needs leadership to secure the critical infrastructure of the country," RSA Security president Art Coviello cooed. ®

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