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White House appoints McAfee CTO Phyllis Schneck to key cybersecurity post

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DHS surveillance cameras
DHS surveillance cameras

The US Department of Homeland Security now has a new head of cybersecurity. Phyllis Schneck, PhD, chief technology officer and VP at McAfee, has been named as deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity, a role in which she will oversee the country's defense against domestic and foreign hackers. According to The Wall Street Journal, Schneck will take over in early September and will likely work to harmonize the DHS's efforts to work with companies in the private sector. The WSJ notes that the DHS is actively working to share data on hacking attacks it sees with companies like ISPs, who can help cut those attacks off. Cybersecurity in general has been a major talking point for the Obama administration this year — a number of attacks originating in China have been a major concern, and the US Department of Defense recently called cyber attacks the number one threat facing the country.

Schneck is the second official appointee to the deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity position since its creation in 2011 — her predecessor Mark Weatherford only stayed in the position for 18 months before leaving in April, while his interim replacement Bruce McConnell announced he was stepping down in July. However, Schneck's experience of working in both the public and private sectors should help her execute the DHS's desire to work more with private companies — in addition to her work at McAfee, she spent eight years leading an FBI group that helped to facilitate communication between the feds and private companies about cybersecurity threats. She also recently worked on the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Commission on Cybersecurity. At McAfee, Schneck focused on the company's "technical vision" for public-facing security and global threat intelligence; she also focused on "cross-sector cyber security," a focus that should be beneficial in her new role at the DHS.