Sam Palmisano is back in the headlines, his new task focusing on cybersecurity.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday appointed his former national security adviser, Tom Donilon, to lead a new commission on cybersecurity that will make detailed recommendations on how the nation should better protect itself against computer attacks.
Donilon will serve as chairman of the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity. Obama will appoint former IBM chief executive Sam Palmisano to serve as vice chairman. Their task, Obama said, is to produce a report by Dec. 1 that will guide future presidents on the infrastructure necessary to confront long-term computer challenges.
Palmisano stepped down as CEO in 2011 and was replaced by Ginni Rometty. He left the chairmanship post in 2012 and was replaced by Rometty.
“Sam Palmisano, who is the former CEO of IBM. So as I’ve joked with him, he knows a little bit about computers,” Obama said. “But he has also served in a variety of non-profit and advisory boards, thinking very deeply about the issue of how do we make cybersecurity a top priority and how do we do better by the American people.”
Obama said the Internet has brought incredible opportunity and wealth, but it also means “that more and more of our lives are being downloaded.”
“Right now, we are not as well organized as we need to be to make sure that we’re dealing with all these threats in an effective way,” Obama said.
Obama issued an executive order establishing the bipartisan commission earlier this month. It comes as federal agencies are facing ever-more sophisticated attacks. Among the most serious breaches in the past year occurred when hackers gained access to the personal information of more than 22 million U.S. federal employees, retirees, contractors and others, and millions of sensitive and classified documents maintained by the Office of Personnel Management. Fingerprint images belonging to some 5.6 million people were stolen.
The commission that Donilon and Palmisano will lead will consist of up to 12 members and make detailed recommendations dealing with the public and private sectors. Many companies have long had such officials in place to deal with cyber intruders.
Obama said Donilon will come at the job from a national security perspective, while Palmisano brings perspective from the private sector and non-profits. Obama said the commission will examine several challenges, including how to keep huge government databases secure, how to provide timely information to the public about best practices to keep their information safe, and how the government can improve its procurement process and attract the best computer personnel.
“The American people understand this is a problem … and it’s only going to grow,”Obama said.
President Obama’s full statement on cybersecurity: