Cyber war!” flashed on the screen at an Internet security conference. With U.S. government and private computer networks facing increasing attacks, President Obama will release results of a 60-day U.S. cyber security policy review on Friday. This review could lay the groundwork for how the country will fight data-network thefts of defense and corporate secrets, finances and identities. The review was conducted by Melissa Hathaway, a former Bush administration official who has been serving as the interim White House cyber security advisor.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that the results of the review will help shape the government’s policy to protect against cyber attacks and crimes. A failure or attack on that cyber infrastructure could shut down the nation’s airlines or crash the stock market.

No single U.S. agency is currently charged with ensuring government cyber security and lawmakers have called for creating a powerful national cyber security advisor reporting directly to the president. In fact, President Obama is expected to announce later this week that he will create a “cyber czar,” a senior White House official who will have broad authority to develop strategy to protect the nation’s government-run and private computer networks, according to people who have been briefed on the plan.

Debate has raged in the high-tech community over whether the task of ensuring cyber security should be given to the Department of Homeland Security or the National Security Agency, which is responsible for breaking codes and electronic spying.

The 2010 budget, announced in late February, included $355 million for the Department of Homeland Security to make private–and public–sector cyber infrastructure more secure. However, the question still remains–will this be enough to ensure cyber security and avoid “cyber war”?

Traci Galbreath

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