October 22, 2011 By Dan Lohrmann
According to Politico and other sources, Mark Weatherford has been named as the new deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Mark will fill the role formerly held by Philip Reitinger, who resigned in May.
Politico wrote: “Weatherford will manage the department’s cybersecurity operations, which include overseeing the agency's partnership with the private sector and security of the dot-gov network. The Obama administration gave DHS an elevated role in managing the federal government’s cyber defenses in its legislative proposal released this spring, making Weatherford a key player for the government.”
Weatherford is currently the Chief Security Officer at the North American Electricity Reliability Council NERC), and will begin his new role with DHS in mid-November.
Mark is well known amongst state and local government leaders for many reasons. He was the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) in both Colorado and in California. Mark was also a regular security blogger and columnist for Government Technology Magazine and PCIO Magazines. Some of his posts can be found here.
Mark has been a leader in the wider security community for years with a wealth of knowledge and expertise. He was active in several cross-government organizations including the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center and National Association of State CIOs.
In my opinion, Mark is an excellent choice by DHS. I think he will do a great job and be a respected friend and colleague to state and local government technology and security leaders around the country. He understands our needs and vulnerabilities, and Mark also grasps the global cybersecurity problems facing America.
More than that, Mark is a thoughtful executive who has both military service and hands-on experience dealing with every aspect of our cyber ecosystem. He “gets it” when it comes to addressing the vast task in front of him, including the training needs and culture change that is required for governments, private sector businesses and even families to succeed online. Mark’s an enabler who wants to get meaningful projects done to protect our sensitive data and critical infrastructure from attacks.
While this endorsement may sound too positive with no negatives, I have no hesitation in backing Mark Weatherford. No doubt, he has a very tough road ahead. There will be new threats, politics and unexpected challenges from all over the place. How long he stays in this role may be determined by events beyond his control. Nevertheless, I can think of no one better to help the cyber community right now.
I'm glad Mark took the job, and I wish him all the best. I am confident that he is the right person for this job as we head into 2012.
What are your thoughts on this appointment?
October 19, 2011 By Dan Lohrmann
There have been several recent articles and reports that offer ways to save Information Technology (IT) dollars. The lists of potential cuts are worth reviewing, but I urge some caution as well.
According to Computerworld, Gartner is urging IT managers to reexamine many common practices with an eye towards stopping ineffective or wasteful approaches. One conference in Florida urged “creative destruction” by killing spending or making radical changes to business as usual. For example, here are a few of the 16 items suggested:
- Stop recommending IT mega projects.
- Make people accountable for IT spending. Have business units acknowledge, with a signature, the ongoing cost of an IT service they need.
- Terminate applications that aren't delivering value. Gartner estimates that operating expenses can be reduced by 20% by 2014 by decommissioning applications.
- Abandon level 1, 2 and 3 tech support, where the more complex the problem the higher the skill level sought to address it until it reaches the people who built it.
- Cancel most IT chargeback systems, which take an extraordinary amount of effort and expense to charge back what is a small amount of revenue.
- Stop seeking competitive bids. Most companies keep their existing vendor.
While I like many of these suggestions, public sector organizations are committed to open, competitive contracts – so the last item must go. In addition, I’m not in agreement with the canceling of IT chargeback systems. (How would this really work?)
Nevertheless, I like many of the 16 items, such as stopping the mega-projects. Lists like these provide excellent food for thought. When government budgets get cut, new opportunities and new ways of thinking can emerge. Creative thinking is a must. Old paradigms and “turf battles” must be eliminated.
In addition, take a look at this blog which offers ways to save or redirect government dollars. One of the items includes a US Department of Interior Transformation Plan that will reportedly save $500 million.
1. Implement policies and actions that will increase collaboration and communication between the private sector and state and local government in all areas of technology acquisition, deployment and service delivery.
2. Innovation in government programs, in parallel with efforts to move to more cost-effective support functions, must now be considered management and fiscal policy imperatives.
3. Appoint a strong, visionary IT officer with authority to align technology assets, operations and services across the enterprise.
Whatever your approach, the current economic environment requires IT leaders to offer a list of cuts, or things they will stop doing, along with ways to implement new projects with a return on investment.
We can all take a hard look at ways to save. What approaches have you seen work in government?
October 8, 2011 By Dan Lohrmann
It was Thursday night, October 6, 2011, and we were listening to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder share his thoughts on the soon-to-be launched Michigan Cyber Initiative. About seventy-five Fortune 500 technology and defense executives, leaders from federal, state and local governments, university presidents, keynote speakers and other VIPs were gathered at the Eastern Michigan University in preparation for the Cyber Summit the next day. The picturesque room, overlooking a golf course with a lake, was decorated with Detroit Tiger banners, in preparation for game five between the Tigers and Yankees in a few hours.
Governor Snyder quickly raised the bar: “If people walk away tomorrow saying that we had a nice conference with good speakers, we will have failed. We need everyone walking away saying that it is time to act now on cyber – whatever their role.”
While only time will tell if we achieved that ambitious goal, the Michigan Cyber Summit was unlike any previous technology event that I’ve ever experienced. Here are a few of the reasons why:
The agenda was packed with featured speakers including:
- Michigan Governor Rick Snyder
- Secretary Janet Napolitano, Department of Homeland Security
- Howard Schmidt, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator and Special Assistant to the President
- Congressmen John Dingell, Mike Rogers and Hansen Clarke
In addition to our public sector leaders, the lunch keynote presentation by Richard Stiennon offered an informative and thought-provoking global view on cyber.
The afternoon breakout panels in five tracks contained participants that are generally tough to get as keynote speakers for other events - with senior execs from Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Symantec, AT&T, Comcast, Unisys, IBM and many others.
National Cybersecurity Awareness Month Kickoff:
The event was designated as the national kickoff for Cybersecurity Awareness Month and was streamed live on Facebook. As I walked around yesterday, I kept running into people from all over the country that are well-known cyber experts – who weren’t even speaking. I suspect this was because our partners got onboard and helped recruit many of the best to be there. These partners included groups like the National Cyber Security Alliance, the Washtenaw County Cyber Citizenship Coalition, the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) and DHS’s National Cyber Security Division (NCSD).
WDIC Detroit - Michigan Announces Cyber Initiative
SC Magazine – Cybersecurity Awareness Month Launched
Sacramento Bee: Facebook Live Covers National Cybersecurity Month Launch
Looking Back and Forward
This was actually our 4th Cyber Summit in Michigan, with the first cyber summit being held in 2008. However, there is no comparison between this event and the first three that we held. Not only was attendance three times higher this time (600 v 200), the participants, buy-in and level of discussion were at an entirely different level. (The summit was actually sold-out more than two weeks in advance.) We had a nice beginning in 2008, but this is a new day with a new sense of urgency.
The bottom line is that Governor Snyder clearly is passionate about this cybersecurity topic. He “gets it” when it comes to the importance of Internet safety and online protection in every aspect of our economy. He also sees this issue in economic terms - with plans for growing private sector technology and cybersecurity jobs in the state. More than that, he is leading the charge and driving the change in “dog years.” His leadership and the support of everyone around him is bringing new partners around the country, allowing this event to happen quickly (only 12 weeks of planning).
The next question becomes: so what? Or perhaps: now what? We have some momentum and high expectations. The time for specific action is now. Our state has new partners at another higher level of engagement on this issue. Many sidebar planning meetings occurred that will help propel new projects within the Michigan Cyber Initiative forward with support and aggressive timeline for deliverables. You can learn more about this and see our toolkit at www.Michigan.gov/cybersecurity.
When I first became CISO in May 2002, we built the Secure Michigan Initiative in eight months - but gaining top-level executive buy-in was a battle. I was proud of our team's pioneering efforts given the resources we were provided. That plan delivered a bottom-up approach to transforming state IT security at the time, but the going got tougher as other priorities often trumped cybersecurity. Still, we did eventually implement almost two-thirds of that security plan on a smaller-than-expected budget.
Coming back as Michigan's new CSO - with physical and cybersecurity in one office, I see the Michigan Cyber Initiative differently. Our previous plans never received this much attention - which is a good and bad thing. Admittedly, the threat landscape has changed. Now, we not only have the Governor’s full support, but his leadership and experience on this cybersecurity issue. I think that we can accomplish much more with that clear priority and stronger executive support, but the stakes are higher as well. The plan is ambitious, but so are the challenges that face each state and our nation in cyberspace.
I am an optimist and a believer in the Internet’s ability to transform government service delivery for the better, but the bad guys are also getting better online as well. From cloud computing to smartphones to the smartgrid, state and local government efforts on cybersecurity will enable or disable innovation.
The reality is that many criminals and other countries are ahead of us. We have work to do. We must partner in new ways. Time will tell if we succeed.
What are your thoughts on this cyber challenge in 2011?
Building effective virtual government requires new ideas, innovative thinking and hard work. From federal stimulus projects to enterprise architectures to cloud computing, Dan Lohrmann will discuss what's hot and what's not in the world of technology infrastructure.