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Symantec Exec to Be Cyber-Security Chief

Bush administration taps Amit Yoran to be in charge of improving network protection.

September 16, 2003|Associated Press

The Bush administration Monday selected Amit Yoran, a respected executive from software firm Symantec Corp., as the nation's new cyber-security chief in the Department of Homeland Security.

Yoran, who is well known within the cyber-security community, will work to persuade Americans to improve their computer defenses against hackers, disgruntled employees, commercial rivals and foreign governments.

"He's been one of the leaders in this area in the private sector," said Howard Schmidt, former deputy special assistant to President Bush for cyber-security issues. "He'll do quite well."

Yoran, a vice president at Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec, also will be responsible for carrying out dozens of recommendations in the administration's push to 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. "There's definitely a lot of work ahead of us."

Yoran co-founded Riptech Inc. of Alexandria, Va., in 1998. The company monitored government and corporate computers around the world with an elaborate sensor network to protect them against attacks. He sold the firm in 2002 to Symantec for $145 million and stayed on as vice president for managed security services.

Yoran said he hadn't yet talked with government ethics lawyers, but he said Symantec, a leading cyber-security and anti-virus 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 would have no equity position or investment in Symantec once he joined the administration. Symantec is best known as the home of the Norton anti-virus software.

The new cyber-security chief's position drew early criticism over its placement deep in the agency's organizational chart. The cyber chief will be at least three steps beneath Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

Yoran effectively replaces Richard Clarke, a special advisor 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 the U.S. Military Academy 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.

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