Introducing the New Cybersecurity Coordinator

Today the White House announced the President’s new White House Cybersecurity Coordinator, Howard Schmidt.

President Obama & White House Cyber Security Chief Howard Schmidt

President Barack Obama greets his new White House Cyber Security Chief Howard A. Schmidt in the Cross Hall of the White House. December 17, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

With some forty years of experience in government, business and law enforcement, Howard brings a unique and deep experience to this important issue.  Watch this video to learn more about his background and approach:

Download Video: mp4 (56MB)

Cybersecurity matters to all of us – and it’s our shared responsibility to mitigate the threats in this space.  You can take cybersecurity into your own hands with these tips for protecting yourself online:

  • Keep your security software and operating system up-to-date.  At a minimum, your computer should have current anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a firewall to protect yourself from hackers and malicious software that can steal sensitive personal information.  Hackers also take advantage of Web browsers and operating system software that do not have the latest security updates. Operating system companies issue security patches for flaws that they find in their systems, so it is important to set your operating system and web browser software to download and install security patches automatically.
  • Protect your personal information online.  Millions of people become victims of identity theft each year.  One way that cyber criminals convince computer users to divulge their confidential personal information is through fake "phishing" emails, which are often cleverly disguised to look like authentic emails.  Be wary of clicking on links in emails that are unfamiliar and be very cautious about providing personal information online, such as your password, financial information, or social security number.
  • Know who you are dealing with.  It is remarkably simple for online scammers to impersonate a legitimate business, so you need to know who you are dealing with.  If you are thinking about shopping on an unfamiliar website, do some independent research before you buy.  Similarly, before you download software, be sure that the software developer is trustworthy.  Cyber criminals will often embed the capability to steal passwords and files into free software. 
  • Learn what to do if something goes wrong.  If your computer gets hacked, the effects may be obvious (e.g., deleted or corrupted files), or they may be subtle (e.g., slow computing performance).  As a first step, you should scan your computer with updated anti-virus software.  You may wish to get professional assistance through your computer’s manufacturer, computer retail store, or local computer technician.  You can also alert the appropriate authorities by contacting your Internet Service Provider or the Internet Crime Complaint Center.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can assist if you are subject to identity theft.  You can also forward spam or phishing emails to the FTC at spam@uce.gov.

Here’s the full-text of the announcement email sent to the White House email list by John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism:

Dear Friend,

Cybersecurity matters to all of us.  Protecting the internet is critical to our national security, public safety and our personal privacy and civil liberties.  It’s also vital to President Obama’s efforts to strengthen our country, from the modernization of our health care system to the high-tech job creation central to our economic recovery.

The very email you are reading underscores our dependence on information technologies in this digital age, which is why it seemed like a fitting way to announce that the President has chosen Howard Schmidt to be the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator.  Howard will have the important responsibility of orchestrating the many important cybersecurity activities across the government.  

Howard is one of the world’s leading authorities on computer security, with some 40 years of experience in government, business and law enforcement.  Learn more about Howard's background and approach to cybersecurity.

Howard will have regular access to the President and serve as a key member of his National Security Staff.  He will also work closely with his economic team to ensure that our cybersecurity efforts keep the Nation secure and prosperous.

Moving forward we will use WhiteHouse.gov, this email program and our other communications tools to keep you posted about our progress in this important area.

Sincerely,

John O. Brennan
Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism

P.S. You can play an important role in cybersecurity as well. Learn more about the issue and steps you can take to ensure your own security.

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