Cybersecurity gets a seat on new Homeland Security Advisory Council

Jeff Moss, founder of Black Hat and DEFCON, two high profile computer security and hacking conferences, was among the new members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council sworn in last week by Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The 16-member HSAC, chaired by former CIA and FBI director William Webster, is heavy on government officials, law enforcement and first responders; Moss is the sole representative from the cybersecurity community. He said he wants to have an impact.

“I’m not interested if I’m just a token,” he said. “I’m hoping to be able to give input and feedback. I’m pleased they recognize this as an issue and are working to address it.”

The council was sworn in Friday in Albuquerque, N.M., where Napolitano, Attorney General Eric Holder and National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske announced the National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy. Napolitano also announced formation of the HSAC Southwest Border Task Force, a 20-member group of national security experts who will advise on securing the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Homeland Security Act of 2002 created the HSAC to provide timely, detailed advice to senior departmental leadership. The council reports directly to the secretary and its members are drawn from police, fire, emergency medical services and public works; public health and hospital managers; state, local and tribal officials; national policy-makers; experts in academia and the research community; leaders from the private sector; and owners and operators of critical industries, resources and infrastructure.

Although mandated by Congress, use of the council by the secretary of Homeland Security has been uneven. Under former secretary Michael Chertoff, “they were completely underutilized,” Moss said. “But Tom Ridge did use them.”

He said he believes Napolitano will make use of the council and that cybersecurity will be one of the department’s priorities.

“Every government initiative includes some kind of technology,” he said. “I believe there are going to be some more cyber announcements made by the end of the month. There is definitely going to be some more happening in cybersecurity.”

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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