Security Gurus to Schmidt: Less Talk, More Action

The security community is doubtful that the newly formed Global Council of CSOs will actually aid, or even make much of a difference to, IT managers working night and day to secure their own companies.
Posted November 13, 2003

Sharon Gaudin

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

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

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

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

''I don't know if this will really benefit anybody, to be honest with you,'' says Keith Peer, 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 to major corporations. But large companies make up a very small percentage of the Internet users in the world. They are dwarfed by the individual users, and the small- and medium-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 to see is a council of people who have the skills, and the time, to make things happen in Washington.

''It's the who's who of security, but I'm wondering what this group is going to do,'' says Woolley. ''What we need is a strong lobbying group. I don't see these guys going to Washington and shaking up The Hill and that's what we really need done. These are executives at eBay and Microsoft and Bank of America. Are they going to have to do anything except get together 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's needed in a time when viruses and spam are exploding, and patches for software bugs are coming 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 you going to do, Guys? Are you building policies that are exportable? Are you crafting technology? Talking is a lofty goal, but what is the real purpose? What are you going to really do for everyone?''

Ken VanWyk, a principal at KRvW Assoc., LLC, a Virginia-based IT security consulting and training 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 over email,'' says VanWyk. ''A professional colleague might give you a heads up about legislation coming 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 helping each other.''

VanWyk says it doesn't expect the benefit to trickle down to companies outside of the council, 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,'' says VanWyk. ''I would expect you won't see a whole lot of press releases coming out of this. The important things they accomplish will be quietly handled.''

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