Obama appoints McAfee CTO as DHS undersecretary of cybercrime

Some hope Schneck’s appointment will draw the private and public sectors closer together on cybercrime

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is looking to crack down on cybercrime and hackers, and this time, President Obama has his eye on the private sector for help.

The DHS has named Phyllis Schneck as the department’s new undersecretary of cybersecurity. Schneck previously worked as chief technology officer and vice-president at McAfee Inc., an American security software company. The man she replaces, Mark Weatherford, said in May that the undersecretary role is one of the top cybersecurity jobs in the federal government behind the head of the NSA.

Schneck plays a crucial role in carrying out a recent Obama executive order on cybersecurity. According to The Hill, the DHS is now responsible for running a security program aimed at unifying security practices for critical infrastructure companies, such as the power grid, water systems and financial networks.

Some believe the appointment of a private sector worker to this important public position will help bring the government more in line with private sector concerns. Michael DeCesare, president of McAfee, said in a statement that the company takes “great pride” in its partnership with the federal government. He also praised Schneck’s work building that connection, saying, “Phyllis has long been a trusted and valued member of the McAfee team who has helped build these partnerships. We congratulate her on her appointment to the Department of Homeland Security, and we know she will do an outstanding job.”

However, others are not as enthused. David Inserra of conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation writes that while the move is a step in the right direction, Schneck will only have as much power as the Obama Administration gives her. “Phyllis Schneck’s appointment is an opportunity for the Administration to change direction and truly embrace the private sector’s role in cybersecurity,” Inserra writes.

 

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