Barack Obama’s cybersecurity czar, Michael Daniel, acknowledges this much: Theis doing a lot for cybersecurity.
But it’s not in spite of the former president’s administration, Daniel said in an interview Thursday. It’s because of what Obama’s team accomplished, he said.
“Every administration has built on the successes and lessons from previous administrations,” said Daniel, who was the White House cybersecurity coordinator during Obama’s last four years in office. He now serves as the head of the Cyber Threat Alliance, a collective of security experts and researchers dedicated to protecting the world from hacks, vulnerabilities and online exploits.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Daniel’s assessment comes two days after Vice President Mike Pence blasted the Obama administration for, in his words, failing on cybersecurity issues. At the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity Summit in New York, Pence said that the Trump White House had “inherited a cyber crisis” and that previous administrations had “let the American people down.”
“The last administration too often chose silence and paralysis over strength and action,” Pence said. “Make no mistake about it, those days are over.”
He mentioned actions that the Trump Administration has taken, including imposing sanctions on countries like Russia and Iran over hacks hitting the US.
But Daniel noted that those actions wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for an executive order that Obama issued in 2015, which allowed the Treasury Department to impose sanctions in response to “malicious cyber-enabled activities.”
Even the DHS’ major announcement at the summit — its National Risk Management Center — was built off an executive order that Obama signed in 2013, which required federal agencies and critical infrastructure vendors to work together to reduce cyberattacks.
“We were working toward that over the course of the Obama administration,” Daniel said. “Really, the Trump administration had extended it.”
All of the Trump administration’s actions in cybersecurity, which Daniel commended, were built off capabilities that Daniel said he’d helped put in place. And while Pence proclaimed that the White House was entering a new era of cybersecurity, Daniel doesn’t really see much that’s different.
He called it an evolution of what previous White House teams had done, saying the approaches and policies of the Trump administration mirror those of Obama.
The one difference, Daniel said, is that the Trump administration seems more interested in “naming and shaming,” making announcements and attributing cyberattacks to hackers even though it’s unlikely they would be arrested.
“There is a policy difference, but it’s not a drastic one,” Daniel said. “Every administration has a desire to claim on the political stage that they are doing things drastically different than the previous administration.”
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