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Obama to compromise on cybersecurity executive order

President attempts to pacify hardliners and privacy advocates, report says

By Taylor Armerding, CSO
October 24, 2012 08:00 AM ET

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The reaction from Healey and other security experts to the order itself is also mixed. Some argue that cybersecurity risks, while real, are not at the level of other threats to the nation. Bruce Schneier, on his blog Schneier on Security, criticized Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's recent speech warning of a "Cyber Pearl Harbor."

"It's difficult to have any serious policy discussion amongst the fear mongering," he wrote, adding that while there are real risks, addressing them does not require "heavy-handed regulation."

Good Harbor Consulting's Jacob Olcott agrees. "Targeted information sharing with a small number of companies has proven to be a useful exercise," he said. "But these efforts are very difficult to scale. It's a worthy initiative, but it's also hard to imagine that this will be a success in the short term."

"Heavy-handed regulation is absolutely unnecessary," he said. "In fact, the government would significantly improve private sector cybersecurity simply by enforcing existing securities laws that require companies to disclose material cyber risks and events to their shareholders."

Healey doesn't oppose an executive order. "This is all about such small items on the margins that getting too worried either way isn't really worth the trouble," he said.

"To fix cyber issues we need to make it so that it is easier to defend than to attack, globally," Healey said. "Sending a few tear line reports isn't going to solve that, but it's a start. Then again, if all we needed to make this happen was the say-so of the President, I wish we'd have done it 10 years ago."

But he is not entirely opposed to fear mongering. "If you're trying to convince people that they are insufficiently worried. I think Panetta can be right," Healey said. "But I still think that heavy-handed regulation isn't the right solution."

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