Howard Schmidt Resumes Private Life

2½ Year Tenure as Cybersecurity Coordinator Ended June 10
Howard Schmidt Resumes Private Life

Howard Schmidt returned to the nation's capital this week as a private citizen, to speak at the Gartner Security Summit, two days after his 2½-year tenure as the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator ended on Sunday, June 10.

See Also: How Supply Chain Attacks Work — and How to Secure Against Them

No official announcement was made by the White House of the formal transition to a new cybersecurity security coordinator and special assistant to the president, Michael Daniel, a 17-year veteran of the Office of Management and Budget [see Who Is Michael Daniel?].

"As you all know, I'm not representing the government," Schmidt told the security professionals assembled for the four-day conference.

The White House in mid-May announced Schmidt's retirement [see Obama Cybersecurity Coordinator Resigns], originally to take place at the end of the month, but extended his departure for 10 days so he could wrap up some assignments.

"It's really strange. Just a few days ago, I was working for the government, now I'm back in private sector, and it doesn't feel any different," he said. "I was hoping there would be this big wave of relaxation, but the world continues to do the things that we're doing. Bad guys do bad things, good people do great things. We continue on."

Reflecting on his tenure, Schmidt emphasized three areas of accomplishments: developing an online trusted identities initiative [see Going After Security's Low-Hanging Fruit], IT security education and an international cybersecurity strategy.

Schmidt explained why the United States cooperates with perceived cyber adversaries such as China and Russia. "From an international perspective, how do we get everybody on the same page, because people just don't fundamentally agree?" he asked. "Things that we fundamentally agree on: freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, other countries state, 'Not so fast. That undermines our society.' As we disagree, and we disagree vehemently about some of those things, we still don't want to focus our energy and time on things we don't agree on. Let's look at the things we can agree on internationally. ... At least get part of it done and work out from there."

No Comment on Stuxnet, Flame

When queried, Schmidt declined to discuss whether the United States was behind the Flame spyware [see Massive, Advanced Cyberthreat Uncovered] and Stuxnet malware [see Report: Obama Ordered Stuxnet Assault] that infected Iranian nuclear centrifuges, but did address the threats they pose. "Many of us for years have been worried about mutually assured disruption because the things that can be used in one piece really have a negative affect on others, and in many cases uncontrolled," he said. "So while I can't and will not and should not talk about anything whether it's true or not, what I can say is we have to be very, very cautious about what goes on out there."

What's next for the 62-year-old Schmidt? "I'll probably go back to my life before [being named cybersecurity coordinator], in the information security field," he said. "I'll probably go back to do corporate boards and advisory, typical things people do when they leave government and don't go back to a fulltime job."

And he'll find more time to ride his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. "I'm just trying to keep from riding into tornados," he said, as he heads west to his home in Washington State and into retirement.

About the Author

Eric Chabrow

Eric Chabrow

Retired Executive Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Chabrow, who retired at the end of 2017, hosted and produced the semi-weekly podcast ISMG Security Report and oversaw ISMG's GovInfoSecurity and InfoRiskToday. He's a veteran multimedia journalist who has covered information technology, government and business.

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