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Security luminaries form CSO think tank

The Global Council of Chief Security Officers was born Wednesday in San Francisco. The group has entrusted itself with defining the role of the CSO and fostering private-public sector relationships in the name of cybersecurity.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Former presidential cybersecurity advisor Howard Schmidt likens the current state of the chief security officer to that of the CIO of five years ago -- it's an evolving position with ever-growing responsibility and presence in the enterprise.

Yesterday, Schmidt announced the formation of the Global Council of Chief Security Officers, a think tank of 10 high-profile security executives from the private sector and government. The group's mission is to define the role of the CSO; share resources, information and research; and develop joint strategies to combat cybersecurity threats.

It also hopes to forge better relationships between private industry and government to counter threats to national cybersecurity.

"The army holds maneuvers to practice and get familiar with one another. For the same reason, we want to promote contact among people who have the responsibility of protecting the nation's cyber-infrastructure," said Whitfield Diffie, CSO of Sun Microsystems Inc. and one of the group's 10 charter members. "Our only power is the collective power of our reputations."

The organization will take an advisory role on major issues affecting security, such as the adoption of new technology standards, but it will have no legal or administrative authority. It will rely on the power of recommendation.

Charter members include: Schmidt, the CISO for eBay; Diffie; Bill Boni, CISO of Motorola Inc.; Vint Cerf, senior vice president of technology strategy at MCI; Scott Charney, chief security strategist at Microsoft; Dave Cullinane, CISO at Washington Mutual Inc.; Mary Ann Davidson, CSO at Oracle Corp.; Steve Katz, former CISO of Citigroup Inc.; Rhonda MacLean, director of corporate information security at Bank of America Corp., and Will Pelgrin, director of the New York State Office of Cyber Security & Critical Infrastructure Coordination. The council is currently looking for members outside the United States so that it can fulfill the "global" part of its charter.

"We want to continue the dialogue regarding cybersecurity and make sure that it stays as a tier-one issue," Schmidt said. "The group we've assembled represents a variety of different backgrounds, and we think that will give the council a broader perspective."

Carnegie Mellon University's newly formed Cyber Lab, a cyber-research and education center, will act as the group's executive secretariat and will be responsible for day-to-day operations.

The council's inaugural meeting will be held in January in San Jose, and the group will define its charter in February at the CSO Summit in San Francisco, before the RSA Security Conference.

"On a selfish note, the sooner we get the state of cybersecurity in better shape, the less work we [as CSOs] will have to do," Schmidt said.

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