President Biden appoints 'world-class' cybersecurity team in wake of hacks

Digital security is a higher priority for the new President.

President Biden is elevating the importance of cybersecurity in light of the SolarWinds hack that compromised multiple government institutions. Reuters reports that Biden has appointed (and will soon appoint) a host of officials well-versed in cybersecurity. To start, the new White House has chosen the NSA’s Anne Neuberger (shown above) for a newly created Deputy National Security Adviser role in the National Security Council. She’s best known for leading the NSA’s cyberdefense division and alerting companies to foreign hackers’ techniques.

Other Council additions are cybersecurity gurus, including Michael Sulmeyer as senior director for cyber, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall as Homeland Security adviser, Russ Travers as deputy Homeland Security adviser and Caitlin Durkovich as senior director for resilience and response.

Some soon-to-be-filled roles reflect a similar focus. The lead candidate for a recently established National Cyber Director role is Jen Easterly, the current head of resilience at Morgan Stanley, an Obama administration veteran and a co-creator of Cyber Command. Biden is poised to nominate another Obama White House member, Rob Silvers, to direct the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Former President Trump fired the previous CISA head, Chris Krebs, after he indicated there was no evidence of digital tampering with the 2020 presidential election.

This is a “world-class” team of cybersecurity experts, Microsoft VP Tom Burt said in a statement.

The moves are a sharp contrast with the Trump administration, which generally downplayed cybersecurity. Although the previous government did elevate the role of Cyber Command and help establish an Integrated Cyber Center to coordinate responses, it also dropped the White House’s Cybersecurity Coordinator role, shrank the State Department’s digital diplomacy unit and fired Krebs. Trump himself falsely claimed Russia had stopped cyberattacks and attempted to shift blame for the SolarWinds hack to China despite mounting evidence of Russian involvement.

The new team might do more to help the US both respond to the SolarWinds incident and protect against future hacks. However, there are concerns this might not be enough. Former Homeland Security cyber director Amit Yoran warned that there needed to be a “good balance” between public and private sector backgrounds — and many of the appointments are government alumni. Success will be measured in the US’ ability to fend off hackers going forward, of course, but it’s not certain many of the new hires will bring fresh thinking to the table.