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Q&A: Defcon's Jeff Moss on Cybersecurity, Government's Role


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Black Hat and Defcon Founder Jeff Moss

"How do you communicate security sensitive information in a localized way? I think the technology group at DHS is spending a lot of time thinking about that," says Defcon founder and DHS Advisory Council member Jeff Moss.

Credit: Darington Forbes

Defcon founder and organizer Jeff Moss, who was named to the U.S. Homeland Security Advisory Council in June, notes that there is a desire in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other agencies to augment the cybersecurity alert system as well as adopt Web 2.0 technologies. "It goes back to this theme I keep hearing from people there that they need to fully engage in the cyber area with distributing information," he says. "They want to be more transparent and they want to communicate information faster to broader audiences in different ways. The hang-up seems to be, what are the best ways to do it?"

Moss says that DHS has been authorized to hire as many as 1,000 cybersecurity employees over the next three years, but he does not think that specialists are available in such numbers. Moss says agencies' fierce protection of their bureaucratic fiefdoms plays a part in the U.S. government's inability to respond adequately to a cyberattack.

He acknowledges that the position of cybersecurity czar has been marked by a lot of turnover, and he presents a theory that "the longer you go without a czar the more they realize that maybe they don't need one, that what they envision what a czar doing, the role is changing." Moss argues that the position should be one tasked with coordinating intelligence, civilians, and the military. "So it's probably more important to get the right person and explain the position so they don't end up with one of these 'all the responsibilities and none of the authority' situations, which is what it sounded like, [a] multiple reporting structure with little budget and little staff and no real authority," he says.

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