President Obama said Friday he will appoint a “cyber czar” as part of a major effort to improve security for the country’s network of computers, increasingly under threat from hackers and international terrorists.
Mr. Obama called the effort a “national security priority” and set forth a five-step plan.
“Threats to the information and communications infrastructure pose one of the most serious economic- and national-security challenges of the 21st century,” the president said during a news conference in the East Room of the White House. “Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups have spoken of their desire to unleash a cyber attack on our country.”
The effort follows a 60-day review of computer security by the National Security Council and Homeland Security Council that Mr. Obama called for after taking office.
He said the review addresses computer-security issues from local to international importance — from friends sending text messages on BlackBerrys to a Wall Street banker making a trade to air-traffic control for flights around the world.
“Make no mistake cyber space is a world we depend on everyday,” Mr. Obama said.
As proof the threat of cyber attacks are real, the president said hackers gained access to e-mails, travel plans and position papers during his national election campaign, from August to October 2008.
The five-step plan includes appointing the cyber czar who would pull together computer security from every federal agency, increasing public awareness about the threats and improving information sharing between the public and private sectors.
“This officer will have my full support and access to me,” Mr. Obama said. “The new approach starts at the top, with me.”
Mr. Obama has yet to appoint somebody to the job, but the person would work closely with the National Security Council and National Economic Council.
The president also said the effort is not an attempt to monitor or spy of Americans.