The Washington Post reported a story this weekend about how the head of US cyber security Howard Schmidt is resigning from the post.  Schmidt’s resignation comes on the heels of FBI cybercrime director Shawn Henry resigning and going to work in private industry.

From the WaPo:

The White House’s cybersecurity coordinator said Thursday that he is stepping down at the end of this month after a 2 1 / 2-year tenure in which the administration has increased its focus on cyber issues but struggled to reach agreement with lawmakers on the best way to protect the nation’s key computer networks from attack.

Howard Schmidt, who oversaw the creation of the White House’s first legislative proposal on cybersecurity, said he is retiring to spend more time with his family and to pursue teaching in the cyber field.

Schmidt leaves at a time when the administration still has much work to do to ensure the protection of the computer systems of companies that provide electricity and other critical services. He will be succeeded by Michael Daniel, chief of the White House budget office’s intelligence branch.

Schmidt, 62, who also served a turn as a White House adviser on cyber issues during the administration of President George W. Bush, had signed up for a two-year-stint, officials said. It was a job few wanted, seeing it as a position with much responsibility but little real authority.

Schmidt’s role has often been overshadowed by that of Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency and head of the military’s Cyber Command, with a debate over the role of the NSA in defending private sector networks gaining more public attention.

I’m not really good at gaming politics, but if all of the mystery novels I read are true, there’s tons of territorial disputes all over the government, and this looks like it’s the same.  With a continuous stream of defections of these high profile positions from government to private industry, you really have to wonder just how serious the country is about cyber security if all they do is squabble over their turf.

I’m currently halfway through reading the second in series of novels from A Game of Thrones, A Clash of KingsI enjoyed the TV show (got hooked on it) and now I want to look ahead.  I confess, sometimes I am reading so slowly that I cheat and go to Wikipedia to find out what happens… but I force myself not to.  It’s a constant battle.

Anyhow, this next part contains spoiler alerts (maybe – I haven’t watched season 2 of Game of Thrones on HBO so I don’t know what’s going on there).  In the book, the the Seven Kingdoms are splitting apart and Lady Catelyn Stark goes south to the southern parts of the kingdom to talk to Renly Baratheon to convince him to team up with her to take down the evil Lannisters.  The Lannisters are the true threat.

Renly is non-committal, but before he outright refuses, his brother Stannis shows up on his doorstep with a much smaller army (Catelyn’s son Rob Stark has about 25,000 whereas Renly has something like 100,000; Stannis has maybe 20,000).  Renly and Stannis get into a bickering match about who is the true king.  Stannis has the rightful claim!  No, Renly is more popular and more kingly, and has a bigger army! 

“You’ll pay for your insolence,” threatens Stannis.

“You and what army?” scoffs Renly.

Catelyn rolls her eyes and tries to convince the two to work together, creating an alliance, even if temporary.  They shouldn’t be fighting each other, they should be fighting the Lannisters!  But the two of them are putting their egos before the good of the realm!

That’s my outside-in view of what’s going on in cyber security.  All these people high up have mandates but can’t get anything accomplished because some other guy is trying to exert his muscle power in his territory.  It really makes you wonder if cyber security is really a priority if everyone keeps resigning from every high power post?  After all, if you go from a high profile public government post where you have theoretical power to the private industry where the scope of what you can do is much more limited, how worried can you possibly be that the threats you claim are dangerous really are that dangerous?

Makes you think.