Obama to name first cybersecurity chief

The Obama administration will appoint the first US cyber-security chief to oversight network security.

In a briefing on Friday, Obama said the cyber threat was “one of the most serious economic and national security challenges” facing the US.

He said economic prosperity in the 21st century would depend on cybersecurity, and that acts of terror could come from a few computer key strokes.

“Yet we know that cyber intruders have probed our electrical grid and that in other countries cyber attacks have plunged entire cities into darkness,” he said, citing the cyber-attacks on Georgia last year as Russian tanks rolled into its territory.

“From now on, our digital infrastructure -- the networks and computers we depend on every day -- will be treated as they should be:  as a strategic national asset.”

He revealed that his election campaign last year had been subject to computer attacks. “Between August and October, hackers gained access to emails and a range of campaign files, from policy position papers to travel plans,” he said.

Obama said federal agencies – such as the Pentagon, Homeland Security, the FBI, and the NSA - had overlapping missions and did not coordinate well.

“We saw this in the disorganized response to Conficker, the Internet ‘worm’ that in recent months has infected millions of computers around the world.”

The new Cybersecurity Coordinator would be a member of the National Security Staff and on the staff of the National Economic Council.

Although most critical information infrastructure was in the hands of the private sector, Obama said the government would not set standards for private companies.

IT security firms said they looked forward to seeing details of the security framework, including a new security architecture.

Separately, the Pentagon is planning a new cyberspace military command to conduct offensive and defensive operations online, Reuters reported.

"We view cyberspace as a warfighting domain that we have to be able to operate within," said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.