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Partnerships with allies to determine “what is, is not” acceptable in cyberspace key

The Biden administration takes over a federal government cyberspace enterprise in “good shape,” but at a vulnerable time, because of the delay in transition, and restoring international partnerships and norms will be critical to maintaining that position, two cyber experts told “Government Matters” Sunday.

President Trump fired Chris Krebs, the former leader of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at the Department of Homeland Security, and reports indicate the White House forced the resignations of two other senior leaders there. Still, “I think we are in good shape in terms of the ongoing Mission activities at that agency,” Suzanne Spaulding, the former leader of the unit that preceded CISA at DHS, said. Spaulding attributed that success to a number of other civilian leaders at the agency. “But the Cyber Mission continues to be incredibly challenging, and as the new administration comes in, they are going to own all of those challenges at noon on January 20th, which is why it’s so important that this transition has begun.”

Establishing a White House Cyber Coordinator position, as the Cyberspace Solarium Commission recently called for, would be “a very important symbol” of the administration’s view on cybersecurity as a national issue, said Chris Painter, former coordinator for cyber issues at the State Department. “I think that says, ‘we’re elevating this back to the position it needs to [have]. This is a core issue again of our national security, and we’re putting someone in charge who will orchestrate the efforts of a lot of great agencies,’” Painter told “Government Matters.”

That leader, and other cyber leaders in the new administration, should focus on building and strengthening alliances around the world, Spaulding said. “We worked on some important cyber agreements with countries around the world, and we need to continue to do that, and it needs to happen at the most senior levels,” Spaulding told “Government Matters.” “But it also needs to continue to happen on a daily basis at the working level … what is and is not acceptable in cyberspace, so that we can begin to build a more effective deterrent strategy.”

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