WASHINGTON – The Bush administration on Monday selected Amit Yoran (search), a respected software executive from Symantec Corp. (search), as the nation's new cybersecurity chief inside the Department of Homeland Security.
Yoran, who is hardly a household name but well known within the cybersecurity community, will be the government's evangelist for convincing Americans to improve their computer defenses against hackers, disgruntled employees, commercial rivals and foreign governments.
Yoran, a Symantec vice president, also will be responsible for carrying out dozens of recommendations in the administration's "National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace," a set of proposals to better protect computer networks.
"There are a number of challenges, but I wouldn't point to any one in particular and say it's the most difficult to overcome," Yoran said in an interview with The Associated Press. "There's definitely a lot of work ahead of us."
The Department of Homeland Security (search) announced Yoran's selection Monday to industry executives and other government officials. Yoran, who was not at the announcement, said he expects to report for work within a few weeks.
Yoran cofounded Riptech Inc. (search) of Alexandria, Va., in March 1998, which monitored government and corporate computers around the world with an elaborate sensor network to protect them against attacks. He sold the firm in July 2002 to Symantec for $145 million and stayed on as vice president for managed security services.
Yoran said he hasn't yet talked with government ethics lawyers, but he said Symantec, a leading cybersecurity and antivirus vendor, wouldn't be shown any special treatment by the department.
"I don't think it would be responsible to cut them out, but certainly we would not show them favoritism just because I spent a year working here," Yoran said, adding that he will have no equity position or investment in Symantec once he joins the administration.
The new cybersecurity chief's position drew early criticism over its placement deep inside the agency's organizational chart. The cyberchief will be at least three steps beneath Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. Yoran effectively replaces a position once held by Richard Clarke (search), a special adviser to President Bush.
"I'm not really overly concerned about my personal visibility," Yoran said. "I want to make sure we take the right initiatives."
Yoran earned a bachelor's degree in computer science from West Point and a master's in computer security from George Washington University. He was director of the vulnerability assessment program for the Defense Department's computer emergency response team before starting Riptech.