DHS cybersecurity director resigns

DHS cybersecurity director resigns

Amit Yoran, director of the Homeland Security Department's National Cyber Security Division

Amit Yoran, director of the Homeland Security Department's National Cyber Security Division, abruptly submitted his resignation yesterday.

Katy Mynster, DHS deputy press secretary, confirmed that Yoran had left but said she was 'not aware of the circumstances surrounding his resignation. He has been a valuable contributor to cybersecurity issues at DHS. I think cybersecurity will continue to be a priority. We'll move quickly to fill [the position] with another individual who has demonstrated leadership in this area.'

The issue of whether cybersecurity was receiving sufficient attention at DHS created a stir last week, when language was proposed for the intelligence reform bill that would have moved responsibility for cybersecurity from DHS to the Office of Management and Budget. The controversy caused the language to be deleted from the bill, and congressional representatives claimed it was a misunderstanding.

Yoran, who was appointed to the position in September 2003, did not comment publicly last week about whether the responsibility should be moved to OMB. Many in the cybersecurity community have said that moving the responsibility out of the White House, where previous czar Richard Clarke reported, diluted its importance.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Science, and Research and Development, last month introduced HR 5068, a bill to elevate Yoran's position to assistant DHS secretary.

"I am disappointed that Mr. Yoran is leaving," Thornberry said. "He was well-qualified to lead the Cyber Security Division and has made substantial contributions over the past year. I continue to believe that the division should be elevated within the department's organizational structure. Cybersecurity cuts across all other critical infrastructures and presents some special challenges. Much work remains to be done.'

Alan Paller of the SANS Institute of Bethesda, Md., a nonprofit organization that sponsors cybersecurity research, training and certification, attributed Yoran's departure to the structure of his position.

'He had an impossible job," Paller said. "No one could have done it from that position. The job was to implement national strategy, and to do [that] he had to do three things: Get very active cross-agency cooperation in cybersecurity in order to have the federal government lead by example; get DHS and the other federal agencies to use their procurement power to provide vendor incentives to deliver safer systems; and get the vendors to act in the national interest before they acted in their own pecuniary interests.'

Paller concluded, "No one I know from that point in the bureaucracy could have pulled that off.'

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