WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama on Monday ordered an immediate 60-day review of federal cyber security efforts and named Melissa Hathaway, a top U.S. intelligence official, to oversee the effort, according to a White House statement.
Hathaway, who served as a top cyber security adviser to Mitch McConnell, the former director of national intelligence, will conduct the review for the White House National Security and Homeland Security Councils.
The review, which will examine what the federal government already is doing to protect vital U.S. computer networks, underscores mounting concerns about the risks of cyber attacks, and points to a growing market for U.S. contractors.
Northrop Grumman Corp, Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, the Pentagon's biggest contractors, already are working on a variety of cyber security projects for the U.S. government, many of which are classified.
Industry executives say the sector will be one of their fastest-growing markets in coming years, and analysts say it could generate over $10 billion in contracts by 2013.
Hathaway, who had been coordinating cyber security efforts for the intelligence community, will serve as acting senior director for cyber space during the review period, according to the White House statement, which was released late on Monday.
Obama highlighted the importance of safeguarding the nation's vital computer networks against enemy attacks during his campaign, and has promised to appoint a national cyber adviser to coordinate federal agency efforts and develop a national cyber policy.
Just before he left office last month, McConnell told reporters that the Internet had introduced an unprecedented level of vulnerability. "If you get in our systems and you're trying to destroy banking records or electric power distribution or transportation, it could have a debilitating effect on the country," he said.
The Senate last month confirmed Adm. Dennis Blair to be the new director of national intelligence, replacing McConnell.
Immediately upon taking office, the Obama administration underscored the importance of protecting U.S. information networks in a posting on the White House website.
It pledged to work with industry, researchers, and citizens to "build a trustworthy and accountable cyber infrastructure that is resilient, protects America's competitive advantage, and advances our national and homeland security."
The White House also said it would initiate a drive to develop next-generation secure computers and networking for national security applications; establish tough new standards for cyber security and physical resilience; battle corporate cyber espionage and target criminal activity on the Internet.