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US cybersecurity shake up would give prez more control

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A bill that would see the White House take more involvement and control in leading US cybersecurity efforts has been tabled before Congress. The move follows recent criticism of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The latest DHS authorization bill (PDF) turns the director of National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) into a presidential appointment. The bill, which allocates a budget of $30m to the DHS over the next financial year, also incorporates provisions for the NCSC director to report directly to the president on key strategies, such as securing the country's critical infrastructure from attack and inter-agency strategy.

Silicon Valley businessman Rod Beckström was appointed as the NCSC director by DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff back in March. Cybersecurity efforts at the DHS - which include running a computer emergency response team as well as the newly-created NCSC - are led on a day to day basis by under secretary Robert Jamison.

The provision of the bill will please critics of the DHS who have called for increased presidential involvement in directing US cybersecurity efforts, some of who have described the DHS as "rudderless".

Last month a member of the Government Accountability Office criticised the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team during congressional hearing for shortcomings including a failure to provide timely warnings and attack mitigation advice. US-CERT also came under fire during the same hearings for a sub-par performance during cybersecurity exercises carried out in 2006.

The Government Accountability Office report can be found here (PDF). A webcast featuring congressional testimony by the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Commission on Cybersecurity (a team of cybersecurity luminaries who testified during the same congressional hearing) can be found here. ®

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