NSA hacker chief named White House Cyber Czar

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Former NSA executive and new White House Cyber Czar Rob Joyce speaking at the launch of NSA's Day of Cyber. (Photo Credit: NSA)

The Trump administration balked at signing an executive order on cybersecurity in its initial days but now seems to be getting back to the issue with the appointment of a White House Cyber Czar.

Rob Joyce, former head of the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations — the intelligence community’s hacking division — has been named the White House Cyber Czar, set to coordinate and advise the president on cyber issues, FifthDomain confirmed. Joyce will take over where the previous White House cybersecurity coordinator, Michael Daniel, left off.

Joyce was tapped to lead TAO in 2013 and has held several leadership positions during his more than 25 years at the NSA, including deputy director of the Information Assurance Directorate.

“Rob Joyce is one of the brightest people I know,” said Phil Quade, former director of the NSA Cyber Task Force and now CISO at Fortinet, who called Joyce a “close business colleague and a good friend.”

“He has intellect, experience and a good sense of humor to, appropriately, de-escalate tense situations,” Quade continued. “His experience in the realities of the foreign threat, the capabilities of high-end nation-state actors and what it takes to achieve an appropriate national cyber posture, would serve the nation well.”

In Quade’s assessment, Joyce should begin by setting up policies and procedures that take some of the pressure off federal agencies.

“We can’t expect every department and agency to be good enough to, alone, take on nation state adversaries’ attempts to circumvent their defenses. We need, for example, the Department of Interior to be really good at protecting the bison and the forests, not being specialists at taking on the Russian GRU or Chinese MSS,” he said.

“Rob Joyce is a strong pick for White House cyber coordinator,” Amit Yoran, CEO of Tenable and the nation’s cyber czar from 2003-2004, agreed. “He has a sophisticated understanding of the problem and is respected within the security industry. I’m confident in his ability to work both within the government and with the private sector to improve national cybersecurity.”

Trump’s last major cyber appointment was less official: Asking former New York City Mayor and Republican rival Rudy Giuliani to act as a cybersecurity adviser.

Prior to that, during the transition Thomas Bossert, former deputy national security adviser, was named homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, a role that has encompassed cyber issues in the past. After his appointment, Bossert said he planned to establish a cybersecurity policy based on open-market innovation.