Create a Federal Tech Czar to Protect Americans' Data: Rep. Hurd

January 11, 2019

By Carlo Versano

Most large corporations now employ a CIO, or chief information officer, who is charged with protecting and running the company's digital infrastructure.

Is it time for the federal government to hire its own CIO?

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex.) thinks so. He told Cheddar Friday that the spate of major data breaches ー even though they happen primarily at private companies ー warrants a federal czar to help protect consumers and potentially even levy penalties on companies that don't do enough to safeguard users' information.

Hurd noted that the vast majority of data breaches are made possible because some piece of software hasn't been patched, or permissions weren't properly secured. Typically, they're not sophisticated hacks. He thinks a "national breach standard" would help codify the processes for preventing these types of vulnerabilities.

"We're not following good, basic hygiene" with our data, Hurd said.

In addition, a tech czar would oversee the protection of the federal government's data, as well as cross-agency IT issues and would have the ability to audit agencies on their technology spending and help cut waste, Hurd said.

Hurd is one of just three members of Congress with a degree in computer science. But he said the importance of cybersecurity is at the forefront of many members' minds, even if they don't have the technical expertise to draft a bill. That's why he's doing it himself. "Recognizing there's a problem is important," he said.

Cybersecurity and data protection is one of the few truly "non-partisan" issues on the Hill, according to Hurd.

Hurd represents Texas' 23rd district, an 800-mile stretch from San Antonio to El Paso that includes more border-adjacent land than any other district in the country. He said technology could also help provide a solution to the border wall fight that has crippled the government. Specifically, he proposes a "smart wall" ー a combination of manpower and technology ー rather than a physical barrier.

For full interview click here.