Obama's CIA nominee an advocate for federal cybersec regulations

Since White House cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt left, Brennan has been strong voice on the issue

John Brennan, who was nominated by President Barack Obama today to be the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has been a vocal advocate for federal cybersecurity legislation in recent months.

As the Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, Brennan has been Obama's chief counterterrorism advisor for four years. In that role, he has frequently called for strong federal legislation to protect government assets and critical infrastructure against cyberattacks.

Last August, Brennan was among four White House officials who called on the U.S. Senate to quickly pass the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, a largely Democrat-backed bill that sought to give the federal government new authority for sharing cyber threat information with the private sector. At the time, the bill was stalled in the Senate; Brennan said passage was "imperative" from a national security standpoint.

Last March, Brennan was part of a team that included the FBI, the National Security Agency and the Department of Justice that conducted a simulated cyberattack on New York City to demonstrate the vulnerability of the city's power grid. The mock attack was part of an effort by the administration to win support for the Cybersecurity Act, a bill that was introduced by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) but opposed by the Republicans as too prescriptive.

Following the last Congress' failure to pass the bill, the White House said it would consider a cybersecurity executive order that would require government agencies and critical infrastructure owners to implement specific controls for fending off cyberattacks. Brennan is believed to have been heavily involved in writing up a draft version of the order and pushing for it to be issued.

In comments to the Council of Foreign Relations in August, Brennan made it clear that he felt the White House needed to issue guidelines under executive branch authority for securing American interests in cyberspace.

"I would note that executive branch actions under existing authority cannot alter the reality that the United States Government will continue to be hamstrung by outdated and inadequate statutory authorities that the legislation would have addressed," Brennan wrote in a letter to Sen. John (Jay) Rockefeller (D-WVa). "Comprehensive legislation remains essential to improve the cybersecurity of the nation's core critical infrastructure."

John Pescatore, an analyst with Gartner, today said that much of the Brennan's involvement in cybersecurity affairs began only after the departure of White House cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt last May. "He took over the bully pulpit when Schmidt left," Pescatore said. "His real focus [had] been on counterterrorism."

If the nomination is confirmed by the Senate, Brennan will succeed David Petraeus, who quit last year following publicity about an extramarital affair.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed. His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

See more by Jaikumar Vijayan on Computerworld.com.

Read more about cyberwarfare in Computerworld's Cyberwarfare Topic Center.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Government ITU.S. Department of Justicesecuritycyberwarfaregovernmentfbi

More about Brennan ITDepartment of JusticeFBIForeign RelationsGartnerNational Security AgencyTopic

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Jaikumar Vijayan

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place