Feds create new post of cybersecurity czar

New official in the Department of Homeland Security will lead fight against "cyber and telecommunications attacks."

A new cybersecurity czar will join the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's ranks, Secretary Michael Chertoff announced on Wednesday.

The assistant secretary for cybersecurity and telecommunications will be "responsible for identifying and assessing the vulnerability of critical telecommunications infrastructure and assets; providing timely, actionable and valuable threat information; and leading the national response to cyber and telecommunications attacks," according to a press release from the 3-year-old department. No announcement has been made about who will get the job.

The new official will report to the undersecretary for preparedness, one of three top-level officials who report directly to Chertoff. (Currently, the chief cybersecurity officer is a low to midlevel official further removed from the secretary.) The "preparedness" category would also include officials overseeing areas ranging from first responder training to public health to infrastructure.

"The Department of Homeland Security has primarily been viewed as a terrorist-fighting entity," Chertoff said in a statement outlining the department's "six point" plan for reorganization. "But, in fact, we are an 'all hazards' department."

Shortly after taking office this February, Chertoff ordered a review of the agency's operations, policies and structures. The U.S. House of Representatives in May moved to create the more weighty cybersecurity post. That same month, the Government Accountability Office reported that the department was failing miserably at its cybersecurity responsibilities.

Security software maker Symantec was quick to praise the department's announcement. Said Tiffany Jones, the company's government relations manager: "The establishment of an assistant secretary for cybersecurity and telecommunications will be a tremendous asset for developing a coordinated, national approach needed to address the myriad of information security challenges that individuals and enterprises face today."

CNET News.com's Declan McCullagh contributed to this report.

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