Washington — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced plans to shut down the State Department’s cyber office, which coordinates with other countries on issues ranging from international hacking to cybersecurity. The Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues will be folded into Department’s economic bureau and its head will no longer report to the Secretary of State, according to Bloomberg. The reorganization comes after months of international tensions over increased nation-state hacking and ransomware deployment.
The State Department’s current cyber coordinator, Christopher Painter, is leaving his post at the end of the month, according to various news reports. The office, established in 2011, has worked to develop international norms for cybersecurity and digital warfare, while also helping to coordinate responses to attacks.
The Computer & Communications Industry Association has advocated both on cybersecurity and for international norms on internet freedom. The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black who has served on the State Department’s advisory committee on internet freedom issues:
“Eliminating this office would be folly. The seasoned professionals who have navigated these troubled waters need to be reinforced, not reorganized.
“It is disappointing as the U.S., internet users, and the private sector face unprecedented hacking, that the State Department would dismantle the office that coordinates with other countries on cyber attacks. This is a time to increase our digital defenses—not stand down.
“Tech companies have respected Painter’s work over the years to encourage international norms on Internet issues and better cooperation between countries on hacking and cyber attacks.
“Our adversaries would like nothing more than to see the U.S. more isolated on cybersecurity matters. Given ongoing attacks on critical U.S. systems, coordinating with our allies on matters of information and network security is now more important than ever. Deprioritizing these activities when we’re under attack risks emboldening our enemies.“
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