Next up from the Obama Administration: A new cybersecurity agency

If you don’t think threats to private data are a problem, you’re not paying attention. Breaches occur seemingly by the day, although we often don’t always hear about them in real time as companies (Sony, Anthem, JPMorgan Chase) and government agencies (the unsecured White House network) scramble to patch their systems.

Now the Obama Administration is poised to create a new agency — the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center — to fight back, according to the Washington Post. Lisa Monaco, President Obama’s assistant homeland security and counterterrorism advisor, will announce the news later Tuesday.

This is not the first time in recent history that world events have prompted a new agency. The 9/11 attacks spurred the creation of National Counterterrorism Center, for example.

Everyone is scrambling to deal with these threats. Of course the creation of another organization will spark discussion about whether we need yet another level of bureaucracy to deal with a problem. After all, silos of information held by different agencies are often blamed for security snafus.

I usually don’t quote from any of the myriad ambulance-chasing pitches that come in on stories like this, but this emailed statement attributed to Jeff Williams, CTO of Contrast Security, summed up the decentralized data problem pretty well:

How will the new center work with DHS, DISA, NSA, CIA, FBI … all of whom have some responsibility for cybersecurity.  In principle, having a single “belly button” is a nice idea.  But in reality, it’s just one more agency with cybersecurity responsibility.

But the problem is obviously also a private sector opportunity and tech companies are snatching up security expertise. The latest example being yesterday’s news that [company]Hewlett-Packard[/company] is buying encryption specialist Voltage Security. Last summer, FireEye bought Mandiant, a high-flying cyber forensics company, for $1 billion.

This story was updated at 11:08 a.m. PST with an additional quote.

Obama administration won’t act on Aaron Swartz petition

The White House will not act on a petition filed to fire the U.S. Attorney who prosecuted Aaron Swartz, co-founder of Reddit and crusader for a free-and-open internet. Swartz died, of an apparent suicide, two years ago.

Swartz, 26 years old, was reportedly despondent over the government’s decision to pursue federal charges that he hacked into an academic database, downloading millions of research papers. He faced a maximum of 50 years in prison.

A petition filed on White House.gov, which received more than 61,000 signatures, asked the administration to remove Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney out of Boston, for overzealous prosecution for what critics call minor infractions. The petition cites a lack of a sense of “proportionality.”

In its response to the petition, the administration said it will continue to examine such thorny issues as “open access to information, privacy and intellectual property, free speech and security” But it will not fire Ortiz. The response noted that the petition process is not the appropriate for addressing personnel matters.

Both Ortiz and the MIT administration came under blistering criticism for their roles in Swartz’ prosecution. Swartz used MIT facilities to download the data in question from the school’s JSTOR library. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has defended Ortiz.

A documentary on Swartz, “The Internet’s Own Boy” was just nominated for an Writer’s Guild award for best documentary screenplay.

Aaron Swartz in memorium

Why all that hacking news might not be so bad

The continuing spate of news reports on hacks at companies might bring greater acceptance to the idea of sharing data with the federal government in its moves to bolster cybersecurity.

White House open sources “We the People” petition app

You never know what you’ll find on GitHub. Starting Thursday, you could download the source code to the Obama Administration’s “We The People” online petition application from the open source repository and start adapting it for your petition needs.

U.S. government agencies prep for big data confab

All right all you big data nerds — it’s time to suit up for the NIST’s Big Data workshop slated for next week. The event will focus on what state-of-the-art core technologies will drive big data and how to ensure accuracy of big data processes.

Freelancers Union to expand health insurance offerings

Thanks to $340 million in no or low-cost loans authorized by the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), the Freelancers Union is expanding its health insurance offerings for independent workers, offering a new low-cost option to those in New York, New Jersey and Oregon.

Feds rip a page out of Amazon’s playbook in data center move

Much has been written about the U.S. government’s plan to shutter 1,200 data centers. There’s been considerably less chatter about the fact that some of the remaining, revamped federal data centers are now leasing out excess capacity to other government agencies.

Obama Appoints Infographics Guru Tufte to Explain Stimulus Funds

Geeks and design lovers are aflutter on Twitter this morning with the news that President Obama has appointed infographic guru Edward Tufte to the U.S. Recovery Independent Advisory Panel. Tufte explains he’ll advise the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board on tracking and explaining stimulus funds.