President Joe Biden is recruiting a group of highly cyber-experienced national security veterans, attracting praise from former defense officials and investigators as the U.S. government is trying to recover from one of its agencies’ largest hacks attributed to Russian spies.
“It is great to see the priority that the new administration is giving to cyber,” said Suzanne Spaulding, director of the Defending Democratic Institutions project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Under former US President Donald Trump’s administration, cybersecurity was demoted as a policy area. In the wake of Trump’s November 3 election loss, it discontinued the cybersecurity coordinator role at the White House, shrunk the cyber diplomacy arm of the State Department, and fired federal cybersecurity chief Chris Krebs.
Disclosed in December, the hack struck eight federal agencies and numerous companies, including software provider SolarWinds Corp. U.S. intelligence agencies publicly attributed it to Russian state actors. Moscow has denied involvement in the hack.
Biden must open a cyber-focused office reporting to a new National Cyber Director under a recent law, who will coordinate the vast cyber capabilities of the federal government, said Mark Montgomery, a former congressional staffer who helped develop the role.
According to four individuals familiar with the selection process, the leading candidate for Cyber Director is Jen Easterly, a former high ranking National Security Agency official.
Currently, Morgan Stanley’s head of resilience Easterly held several senior Obama administration intelligence positions and helped establish the U.S. Cyber Command, the top unit for cyber warfare in the country.
The Biden administration “has appointed world-class cybersecurity experts to leadership positions,” Microsoft corporate Vice President Tom Burt said in a statement.
Five experienced cybersecurity officials are included in Biden’s National Security Council (NSC), a White House arm that directs the safety goals of an administration.
National Security Agency senior official Anne Neuberger is leading the recruitment as Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technologies, a new role intended to lift the subject internally.
In recent years, Neuberger became one of the most recognizable figures at the NSA after heading the cybersecurity arm of the spy agency, drawing praise for rapidly alerting businesses to hacking tactics used by other nations.
And all the other four have previously worked in senior national cybersecurity security roles.