We Have A Cyber Czar, and He Has Spoken

January 30, 2009
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A debate has been running for months both among government thought leaders and the technical literati on whether or not the US should appoint a “Cyber Czar” who can exert authority over IT security in the federal space or perhaps even aspects of the nation’s IT defenses.  This is a complex discussion that has had some of the greatest thinkers in and out of government involved.   A great snapshot of issues and the opinions of many well reasoned experts are expressed in the CSIS report “Securing Cyberspace for the 44th Presidency”   and other thoughts are here: The Future of Cyber Security and here: Threats In the Age of Obama . Unfortunately for those who would like to still debate and discuss this issue, there is already a Cyber Czar who can accomplish most all his objectives in our networks.  His name is Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.  This former KGB operative now controls Russia with an iron fist and has shown others again and again he will exert influence anywhere he needs to in order to accomplish his objectives.  He will use tanks when required and cyber when desired and combinations when it suits him.  There are indicatio


putinatdavos.pngA debate has been running for months both among government thought
leaders and the technical literati on whether or not the US should appoint a
“Cyber Czar” who can exert authority over IT security in the federal space or perhaps even
aspects of the nation’s IT defenses.  This is a complex discussion
that has had some of the greatest thinkers in and out of government
involved.   A great snapshot of issues and the opinions of many well
reasoned experts are expressed in the CSIS report “Securing Cyberspace for the 44th Presidency”   and other
thoughts are here: The Future of Cyber Security and here: Threats In the Age of Obama .

Unfortunately for those who would like to still debate and discuss this
issue, there is already a Cyber Czar who can accomplish most all his
objectives in our networks.  His name is Russian Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin.  This former KGB operative now controls Russia with an
iron fist and has shown others again and again he will exert influence
anywhere he needs to in order to accomplish his objectives.  He will
use tanks when required and cyber when desired and combinations when it
suits him.  There are indications his agents are also in our networks
now.  If our objectives are to keep players like him out, we cannot say
we are accomplishing them.  If his objectives are to get in, then we
can say he is accomplishing them.  Till this situation changes, we
need to confront then this new reality:  Vladimir Putin is the Cyber
Czar.

We have our own great technologists and wizards of cyber, of course. 
And we have great hero entrepreneurs of technology who have built the
cyber world we all use today.  One of those greats is Michael Dell,
creator of an idea and corporation that develops, manufactures, sells
and distributes personal computers we all depend on.

But he is someone who will now think twice before thinking he can
interact as a peer to Cyber Czar Putin.  After listening to Putin’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Michael Dell
praised Russia’s technical and scientific prowess and asked a nice,
friendly question:  “How can we help.”  As a former govie CTO I would
get asked that type of question all the time from industry and really
appreciated it whenever a senior thought leader would ask that.  But
not Czar Putin.  He did not appreciate that at all.   Putin was
offended by the assertion that the mighty Russia might need help in anything Cyber.
The exchange is captured here on YouTube:

Fortune: described the exchange this way:

“Putin’s withering reply to Dell: “We don’t need help. We are not
invalids. We don’t have limited mental capacity.” The slapdown took
many of the people in the audience by surprise. Putin then went on to
outline some of the steps the Russian government has taken to wire up
the country, including remote villages in Siberia. And, in a final dig
at Dell, he talked about how Russian scientists were rightly respected
not for their hardware, but for their software. The implication: Any
old fool can build a PC outfit.”

Clearly cyber domination is personal with Putin.  He is the Cyber Czar. 

I think I should end with a plea to all who care about cyber freedom and all who know the potential positive contributions of IT:  Please don’t be
pleased with this current situation.  Please don’t just think the title
of Cyber Czar I’ve now used to describe Putin is something we should be
proud of.  It is not.  We should continue to act till we are able to
assert that we are masters of our own networks.  Our nation’s
intellectual property, including the intellectual property of all our
companies and citizens, is too important to let it be given away
without at least a cyber fight.

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