And Biden is expected to name Eric Goldstein, another DHS veteran, to lead CISA’s Cybersecurity Division, filling one of the most important mid-level roles at the agency, according to a person familiar with the matter.
All three officials will play key roles as Biden weighs how his administration will respond to the SolarWinds cyber espionage campaign, a major series of cyberattacks in which hackers, believed to be from Russian foreign intelligence, compromised an untold number of federal agencies, state and local governments, and private corporations.
“All three of those folks have extensive experience in cybersecurity,” Michael Daniel, who served as President Barack Obama’s cybersecurity coordinator, told POLITICO when asked for his thoughts on the three candidates. “They bring a lot of skills to the administration and I think would be strong players.”
Easterly, the head of resilience at Morgan Stanley, served as deputy director for counterterrorism at the NSA from 2011 to 2013 before joining Obama’s NSC, where she served as special assistant to the president and senior director for counterterrorism. She was also instrumental during the Obama years in establishing the military’s U.S. Cyber Command.
More recently, she advised Biden’s transition team on how to establish the cyber director office that she has now been tapped to lead. Congress created the Office of the National Cyber Director inside the Executive Office of the President in the latest defense policy bill.
Silvers, a partner at Paul Hastings, served as assistant secretary for cyber policy at DHS in the final year of Obama’s presidency, after spending two years as the department’s deputy chief of staff. He co-led the CISA section of Biden’s DHS transition team.
Goldstein, the vice president and head of cybersecurity policy for Goldman Sachs, spent four years at CISA’s predecessor, DHS’ National Protection and Programs Directorate, during the Obama administration. For the first half of 2017, he led its cyber division’s public engagement branch. During the transition, he served on Biden’s DHS review team as part of the CISA unit.
Reuters first reported that Easterly and Silvers were the leading candidates for their jobs, while CyberScoop first reported Goldstein’s expected nomination. Easterly, Silvers, Goldstein, and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.
“With these appointments, clearly the Biden Administration is making cybersecurity and the protection of United States infrastructure a top priority,” said Anthony Ferrante, a former NSC director for cyber incident response and FBI Cyber Division chief of staff. “He’s building a strong and diverse team, with accomplished backgrounds in cyber offense, resilience, and investigations.”
Defining a new role
If confirmed by the Senate, Easterly will be instrumental in defining the structure and purpose of the amorphous new cyber director office. The position, the marquee recommendation of the congressionally chartered Cyberspace Solarium Commission, is essentially an upgrade of the National Security Council cyber coordinator post that former President Donald Trump eliminated in 2018.
Leading the new office would give Easterly the chance to leave a mark on the government’s cyber operations that will long outlast her tenure.
While many experts have championed the idea of a White House cyber office as a way of elevating the issue’s importance and proximity to the president, key questions about its activities and authority remain unanswered. How Easterly handles the job will help answer those questions and set a precedent for all of her successors. With a broad but untested mandate, it will be up to Easterly to establish whether her position becomes influential or superfluous.
Easterly will bring a key asset to the job of national cyber director: a past working relationship with Anne Neuberger, the NSA official whom Biden appointed to the new position of deputy national security adviser for cybersecurity.
Neuberger and Easterly both served from 2009 to 2010 on the implementation team for Cyber Command, then a subordinate unit of U.S. Strategic Command. They were instrumental in establishing the structure and operational mindset of the unit, which became a full combatant command in 2017.
After helping to create Cyber Command, Easterly and Neuberger continued to climb the NSA’s ranks together. From 2011 to 2013, Easterly was the NSA’s No. 2 counterterrorism official while Neuberger was serving as a special assistant to then-NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander.
It remains unclear how the White House will delineate responsibilities between Neuberger and Easterly.
Congress intended Easterly’s new role to oversee U.S. cyber defenses and the protection of government and civilian networks. Neuberger has experience with both the offensive and defensive work of the NSA, but her most recent work was on the defensive side, and her new position remains undefined.
Biden could task Neuberger with overseeing offensive cyber operations and cyber intelligence collection to avoid issues of redundancy or conflict with Easterly.
Guiding CISA through the post-Krebs era
As CISA director, Silvers would replace Chris Krebs, whom Trump fired in November for publicly debunking his conspiracy theories about the election.
Silvers will oversee the growth and maturation of the nation’s newest agency, established in late 2018 to replace the DHS division that helped defend ports, hospitals and power plants from cyberattacks and dirty bombs. With a workforce of roughly 2,200 employees, CISA is responsible for everything from helping state and local governments block ransomware attacks to helping schools plan for mass shootings.
Silvers will bring a key asset to the job of CISA director: an already strong relationship with his new boss, Biden’s DHS Secretary nominee Alejandro Mayorkas. From 2013 to 2014, Silvers served as Mayorkas’ senior counselor while the latter was deputy secretary of homeland security.
Tracking the people, policies, and emerging power centers of the Biden Administration.
As assistant secretary for cyber policy, Silvers played a leading role in bridging the sometimes frosty divide between the federal government and key industry sectors. He also helped oversee DHS’ response to major cyberattacks and data breaches. He “drove administration policy on technology risk issues, ranging from government access to encrypted data to security challenges involving intelligent and autonomous systems,” according to his law firm biography.
Silvers will take over an agency fresh off a successful run defending the 2020 election from cyber interference but also bruised by suspected Russian hackers’ massive and sophisticated breach of federal agencies and Trump’s firing of Krebs.
Krebs, who gained bipartisan acclaim while leading CISA and its predecessor, charted the agency’s initial course and helped make it a serious player in interagency discussions about digital security threats. Silvers will be responsible for guiding CISA through the second phase of its existence, as it tries to improve upon the services that it already provides while continuing to stay ahead of emerging threats in areas such as 5G, artificial intelligence and nation-state hacking.
Silvers’ success at CISA will depend in part on Goldstein’s stewardship of one of the agency’s key divisions.
CISA has spent the past several months scrambling to respond to SolarWinds, which compromised the networks of multiple departments and agencies along with many Fortune 500 companies. The 2-year-old agency has been overwhelmed by the scale of the crisis, which has taxed its personnel and occasionally left it struggling to provide timely aid to other agencies, according to POLITICO and other outlets.
CISA’s Cybersecurity Division oversees the defense of civilian federal networks, and SolarWinds will test Goldstein’s ability to triage his limited personnel and resources.
The division manages two programs, EINSTEIN and Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation, that are supposed to block external threats and scan internal networks for anomalous behavior. The success of the SolarWinds campaign — in which suspected Russian hackers infected software that the government trusted and used command-and-control servers designed not to trip alarms — has raised questions about the efficacy of those two programs.
Goldstein’s earlier DHS career may have prepared him well for his new job. Before leading NPPD’s cyber partnerships branch, he served as a policy adviser in the directorate’s Federal Network Resilience branch, a senior adviser to the head of NPPD’s cyber arm and a senior counselor to the chief of NPPD.
This content was originally published here.