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5 Must-Do Cyber Security Steps for Obama

By Bill Brenner, CSO
December 03, 2008 05:11 PM ET

CSO - As President-Elect Barack Obama looks for ways to deal with a shattered economy and an ongoing war on terrorism, security experts are urging him to pay attention to something that has a big impact on both: The nation's growing -- and fragile -- cyber infrastructure.

Potential adversaries have increasingly turned to cyber espionage as a way to find weaknesses in networks run by the U.S. government and the nation's critical infrastructure providers.

Meanwhile, retailers increasingly dependent on the Web for commerce have launched online transaction portals that rely on Web applications that are easily targeted by digital miscreants. Many of those features are increasingly accessible via popular social networking sites like Facebook.

My 10 tech-related wishes for the Obama administration

Realistically, most of the necessary improvements must be devised and deployed from within private companies and government agencies. But Obama is in a unique position to lead on this issue and inspire others to fix the security holes, experts say.

With that in mind, CSOonline has compiled a five-point list of areas Obama should focus on, based on feedback from security pros.

1. Secure the Web apps

With more and more people doing their shopping online, attackers will continue to ramp up attacks against the Web applications customers use to make purchases. Companies that allow sensitive customer data to fall into sinister hands face a world of hurt in terms of reputation and future business, and so Obama should use his bully pulpit to demand better security.

"Obama [and his IT security advisors] needs to focus on securing Web applications that have largely been ignored by previous administrations," says Mandeep Khera, chief marketing officer for security vendor Cenzic. "With millions of hacking attempts on our government infrastructure every day and thousands of successful attacks against corporations through the Web site, government needs to step in and create stronger regulations to enforce the security of our Web sites."

2. Wipe the dust off of older regs

That a security vendor would favor more regulation is of little surprise. But security regulations are very much on the minds of those polled -- and not the potential new regulations, either. Instead, some experts would prefer Obama put pressure on subordinates to revisit longer-standing regulations that are in need of a makeover.

Former Cisco/WebEx CSO Randolph Barr, now working in the security division of Redwood City, Calif.-based financial application provider Yodlee Inc., is among those who believe the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) is outdated, for example.

"The regulatory requirements for DIACAP/FISMA 805, etc., are catered more towards systems and software and not updated to reflect the innovation of other companies when it comes to selling software as a service and cloud computing, making it very difficult for an organization to be successful in partnering with the government," Barr says. "Some time should be taken to revisit these regulatory requirements."

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