Security Gurus to Schmidt: Less Talk, More Action

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The security community is doubtful that the newly formed Global Council of CSOs willactually aid, or even make much of a difference to, IT managers working night and day tosecure their own companies.

The council, which was formally announced at a San Francisco press conference Wednesdayafternoon, is made up of senior high-tech security executives from major corporations, likeeBay, Motorola, MCI, Microsoft, Citigroup, and Bank of America. The 10 members will form athink tank focused on encouraging dialogue between the members, as well as between thecorporate sector and government agencies.

''We're looking to enhance cyber security, technology, economic prosperity and nationalsecurity interests,'' said Howard A. Schmidt, former White House cyber-security advisor anda founding member of the council. ''This group represents a pretty comprehensive base ofdepth of experience and depth of understanding of the issues we deal with... One of the bestthings we can do is to continue the dialogue.''

But some security experts say dialogue among a few corporate executives isn't what iscritically needed right now.

''I don't know if this will really benefit anybody, to be honest with you,'' says KeithPeer, president and CEO of Central Command, an anti-virus company based in Medina, Ohio.''These people are from very large companies. What concerns them is uniquely related tomajor corporations. But large companies make up a very small percentage of the Internetusers in the world. They are dwarfed by the individual users, and the small- andmedium-sized enterprise users.

''I'd like to see a think tank that focuses on the majority of Internet users,'' adds Peer.

What Dan Woolley, a vice president at Computer Associates International Inc., would like tosee is a council of people who have the skills, and the time, to make things happen inWashington.

''It's the who's who of security, but I'm wondering what this group is going to do,'' saysWoolley. ''What we need is a strong lobbying group. I don't see these guys going toWashington and shaking up The Hill and that's what we really need done. These are executivesat eBay and Microsoft and Bank of America. Are they going to have to do anything except gettogether one a month and have dinner and talk shop?''

Woolley adds that simply getting some heavy hitters in the same room just isn't what'sneeded in a time when viruses and spam are exploding, and patches for software bugs arecoming faster than IT managers could possibly handle.

''You have a bunch of really smart security guys sharing information among themselves.That's great, but how is that going to help everyone else?'' asks Woolley. ''What are yougoing to do, Guys? Are you building policies that are exportable? Are you craftingtechnology? Talking is a lofty goal, but what is the real purpose? What are you going toreally do for everyone?''

Ken VanWyk, a principal at KRvW Assoc., LLC, a Virginia-based IT security consulting andtraining company, says the council could be beneficial -- to the members.

''There's going to be passing of information at these meetings that wouldn't be done overemail,'' says VanWyk. ''A professional colleague might give you a heads up about legislationcoming down the pike or an incident that you might not be aware of. It's informal,high-level discussions. These are some pretty big companies that are going to be helpingeach other.''

VanWyk says it doesn't expect the benefit to trickle down to companies outside of thecouncil, but he notes that the companies involved are large and affect millions of people.

''I have a tremendous amount of faith in Howard Schmidt's ability to pull this off,'' saysVanWyk. ''I would expect you won't see a whole lot of press releases coming out of this. Theimportant things they accomplish will be quietly handled.''

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