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US government poaches McAfee CTO for cyber-security role

With cyber-security remaining high on the US government’s agenda this year, President Obama has again shuffled his pack in this department with McAfee exec Dr Phyllis Schneck set to join as a senior cyber-security official.

Schneck, who served as a vice president and chief technology officer for the public sector at McAfee, will take the role in early September, working as the deputy undersecretary for cyber-security. Confirmation has arrived from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the government arm charged with defending US networks from foreign and domestic breaches.

Schneck’s experience in straddling the public-private sector divide in cyber-security will have been viewed favourably by the White House. With online threats continuing to rise, the government is keen to pool intelligence and expertise across both sectors to formulate effective combat strategies, and Schneck already boasts eight years’ experience as head of an FBI group working to increase collaboration between the authorities and private companies.

The UK has been following a similar course of action with the Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership (CISP), announced by the government in March 2013. But when probed by ITProPortal over the effectiveness of the scheme, one security CEO said he had not yet seen “any material results” so far.

A statement from DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano regarding the Schneck appointment spoke positively of cross-sector security partnerships in the US, and Schneck’s future role of enhancing co-operation in fighting cyber-threats.

“During my tenure as Secretary, we have strengthened partnerships with the private sector to secure cyber networks and protect physical assets while developing a world-class cybersecurity workforce,” she said.

“I am confident that Phyllis will continue these efforts, and build upon the foundations laid by her predecessors, to create a safe, secure and resilient cyber environment and promote cybersecurity knowledge and innovation.”

In a company blog post, McAfee’s Worldwide CTO Mike Fey said, “McAfee is losing a tremendous talent as Dr. Phyllis Schneck heads to the Department of Homeland Security to take on a critical leadership role in cyber security policy. But our loss is the Department’s gain, and we’re proud to be adding such an excellent resource to the government’s roster.”