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White House cybersecurity bigwig sees his IT security ignorance as an advantage

A senior White House security officer has talked down the knowledge required to perform his job.

Michael Daniel, the special assistant to US President Barack Obama and the White House's cybersecurity co-ordinator, this week said that "You don't have to be a coder to do well in this position," and that "being too down in the weeds at the technical level could actually be a little bit of a distraction."

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In an interview with Information Security Media Group, Daniel argued that the most important parts of his role are "looking at the broad strategic picture," and "being able to analyze and break down really complicated public policy problems and present them in a manner that makes them more amenable to analysis."

Commentators have been quick to denounce a senior policy maker who doesn't understand base technical issues. The critics are most likely responding comments such as, "Intruders get in through those holes that we know about that we could fix... The question is, 'Why don't we do that?' That clearly leads me to the conclusion that we really don't understand all of those economics and psychology well enough."

This strongly suggests a lack of technical understanding surrounding security issues.

However, Daniel goes on to say that the cybersecurity sector needs experts in both "technical business" and "traditional business"; people who understand how to create the solutions and people who understand how the various industries work.

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His expertise lay in policy-making, which is a skill that most computer developers don't have. Similarly his approach to the role is fairly unique. He believes that cybersecurity is a misunderstood sector: "At a very fundamental level, cybersecurity isn't just about the technology but it's also about the economics of cybersecurity."

Despite his detractors, Daniel has demonstrated his expertise in government, serving 17 years in the office of management and budget, and 11 years as chief of the intelligence branch for the national security division.