Obama forms commission to bolster US cyber security

Members include Microsoft Research VP Peter Lee and Uber security chief Joe Sullivan.

The sad state of US cyber security was laid bare when attackers stole the sensitive data of 21 million government employees from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) last year. President Obama pledged $19 billion to fix the problem in February, and just unveiled a commission of private, public and academic experts to come up with a plan. Called the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity, it will be co-chaired by former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano and Tom Donilon, the President's former national security adviser.

Notable members include MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, Microsoft Research VP Peter Lee, Uber's current (and Facebook's former) Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan, Frontier Communications Executive Chairperson Maggie Wilderotter, and Annie Antón, chair of the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech. The aim is to fend off not just attacks on US government computers, but also private sector hacks like the infamous Sony Pictures breach. The commission's specific goals are to:

Raise the level of cybersecurity in both the public and private sectors, deter, disrupt, and interfere with malicious cyber activity aimed at the U.S. or its allies and respond effectively to and recover from cyber incidents.

One of the main reasons that Chinese attackers were able to hack US systems was that the computers are so antiquated that files can't be encrypted. A good chunk of the budget, some $3.1 billion, will be spent upgrading the networks and systems underpinning America's cyber-backbone. The Chinese government denied that state-sponsored attackers were responsible for the OPM breach and blamed the problem instead on rogue hackers. Following the attack, however, both governments formed an "understanding" to ward off future attempts by both nations.

The commission will make long-term recommendations to ratchet up cyber security in the US government and private sector. The new commission will hold its first meeting tomorrow at the U.S. Department of Commerce, joined by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Obama's Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism advisor, Lisa Monaco.