Archive for May, 2009

White House Cybersecurity report: Making the Internet safe will require time and patience

Melissa Hathaway, Acting Senior Director for Cyberspace for the National Security and Homeland Security Councils, and leader of the team that produced the Obama administration’s cybersecurity report, at the event today in which the report was unveiled. (Click to enlarge.) [Photo: Jeff Fox]

Bearing the title,”Cyberspace Poicy Review,” and just 38 pages long (if you don’t count the appendices), the long-awaited preview of how the federal government is going to secure cyberspace was finally released at the President’s White House speech today. (I was actually handed a copy in the East Room 20 minutes before its official release time and then asked to return my copy until that time, 10:45 am EDT, arrived.)

While I haven’t had time to read through the report in its entirety, here are some key points from it that the President stressed in his speech:

  • The status quo is no longer acceptable. The US must signal to the world that it is serious about addressing the challenge of cyber security.
  • “Ad hoc responses will not do.” (That’s a direct quote from Obama’s speech). The President said the country cannot continue to react to cyber crime on a piecemeal, incident-by-incident basis; it must become proactive, organized, and partner with other nations.
  • There will be accountability. The President promised that milestones and “performance” metrics will be used to ensure that goals are met.
  • Although public/private partnerships will be pursued, there will be no monitoring of private sector networks or Internet traffic. There will be a strong commitment to privacy and civil liberties.

The report itself contains two lists of action plans, one near-term and one mid-term.

The 10 near term actions listed include developing an updated strategy to secure the country’s information infrastructure; designate a privacy and civil liberties official on the National Security Council; initiate a national public awareness and education campaign to promote cybersecurity; and prepare a cybersecurity incident response plan before, rather than after, a major attack occurs.

The 14 mid-term actions listed include improving the process for resolving interagency disagreements; expanding support for research and development; and developing a process between he government and private sector to assist in preventing, detecting, and responding to cyber incidents.

Clearly there’s much work to be done, and the President made clear today that he expects it will take years and lots of challenging effort to complete it. We are only at the beginning, he said, comparing a major transformation like this to movements such as the agricultural and industrial revolutions, which took long periods of time.

On Monday, a panel of top cybersecurity and intelligence experts will provide their analysis of the report. We’ll be covering that event as well, so look for an update then.

The full report is available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/assets/documents/Cyberspace_Policy_Review_final.pdf (Adobe Acroba required) —Jeff Fox

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Obama cybersecurity speech: A serious commitment to change

President Obama speaking on America's cyber infrastructure. Photo: Jeff Fox

In launching his cybersecurity initiative at the White House today, President Obama promised determination, cooperation, accountability, and a return in the 21st century to the can-do spirit that made America great in the 20th century.

As expected, Obama did announce the creation of a “cyber security coordinator” position in the White House, but didn’t announce who will fill it. But, in the wake of rampant speculation that such a cyber-czar would have a hard time effectively coordinating the federal agencies that routinely engage in turf battles over internet security, the President was very clear that whoever is chosen will have the power of the presidency behind him or her. Obama promised that whoever fills the position “will have my full support and regular access to me.”

I’ll be posting more analysis of the speech shortly on this blog. —Jeff Fox

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Obama cites Consumer Reports survey figure on cost of cybercrime

Obama_portrait_146px In a speech on cybersecurity this morning, President Obama used a figure from a Consumer Reports survey to document the financial impact of cyber crime on U.S. households.

“According to one survey,” the President said in his remarks, delivered to an audience of reporters and cybersecurity experts at the White House, “in the past two years alone cybercrime has cost Americans more than $8 billion.”

While the President did not attribute the figure to Consumer Reports, it’s identical in amount and scope to that found in our unique State of the Net 2009  survey conducted  by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. The figure includes the estimated impact of viruses and phishing over a two-year period, along with that of spyware in the six months prior to the survey, which involved a nationally representative sample of Internet-using households.

In the speech, Obama also summarized his administrations’ planned strategy to tackle cybercrime, and outlined the responsibilities of a new “cyber-czar” who will lead those efforts. Technology Editor Jeff Fox was in attendance at the event, and will be reporting in more detail on the Obama speech later today.
– Paul Reynolds

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Palm Pre will work with iTunes, may have AT&T and Verizon availability

The hotly anticipated Palm Pre smart phone will be an even-more formidable alternative to Apple's iPhone, if some new reports prove true.

Where the iPhone is available from AT&T, it appears the Pre won't long be shackled only to Sprint, its exclusive carrier when the phone launches on June 6—and the lowest-scoring carrier in our Ratings of cellphone service, available to subscribers. Word has it that both Verizon and AT&T may offer the Pre in a matter of months.

Also, Palm announced the Pre will also work fairly seamlessly with iTunes, one of the apps that make the iPhone so successful as a multimedia phone. This is an unusual development, given Apple’s traditional reluctance to make its software compatible with that of others. At a demo this week, Fortune reports, the Pre was shown successfully syncing with iTunes. —Mike Gikas

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Superzooms slim down or bulk up

The Canon PowerShot SX10 IS, an example of a bulky superzoom"

Some of the new superzoom cameras I reported on earlier this year, which were shown at CES and PMA, are just starting to show up in stores. All have 20x or more optical zoom, which is a good thing, but they're pretty chunky for point-and-shoots. Still, if maximum zoom is your priority, they're the way to go.

On the other hand, if you wouldn't mind sacrificing a little zoom power for smaller size, you might be interested in some slimmer models that are hitting the market now.

We're testing both types so you can see how they compare and decide which you'd prefer:

Chunky: These superzooms can have as much as 26x optical zoom, but they're hefty. They have many buttons and controls, and have some options that few point-and-shoots have, such as a hot-shoe for attaching an external flash. They also generally have viewfinders, which can be helpful in bright-light situations when the LCD gets washed out. They can also be among the priciest point-and-shoots.

A slimmer, lighter superzoom, the Samsung HZ10W

Slim: These superzooms generally have either a 10x or 12x optical zoom lens and come in a form factor that's only slightly larger than most compacts. They're more portable than the larger models, but often have fewer buttons and controls to change exposure settings and don't include a viewfinder. Generally, they're cheaper than the chunkier models.

Check our digital camera Ratings for more details on these and other models. —Terry Sullivan

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