Director of US-CERT quits abruptly

Randy Vickers offers no explanation for sudden departure from U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team

Randy Vickers, the director of the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT), has resigned from his position without any official explanation for the abrupt move.

Vickers' resignation last Friday was communicated via email to members of the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Cybersecurity and Communications (CS&C) by Roberta Stempfley, acting assistant secretary at CS&C.

The brief email, a copy of which was obtained by Computerworld, noted that Vickers' last effective day at the US-CERT was last Friday. The email said that Lee Rock, the deputy director for US-CERT, will serve as the interim director until a new one is named.

"Lee has been the Deputy Director for US-CERT for over a year and we are confident that our organization will continue its strong performance under his leadership," Stempfley said in her email. "We wish Randy success in his future endeavors," she added.

The US-CERT is part of the National Cyber Security Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It is responsible for analyzing and mitigating threats to federal networks and for coordinating information sharing between the government and the private sector.

In his role as director, Vickers was oversaw all operational aspects at CERT.

Vickers' abrupt departure is not entirely surprising given the tremendous pressure he is likely to have faced as head of the group, said Tom Kellerman, chief technology officer at AirPatrol.

"It is one of the toughest jobs in America. It's like being a fire fighter in Texas," said Kellerman who was a member of a commission that developed a set of cybersecurity recommendations for President Obama two years ago.

During the past few months, there has beeb an exponential increase in cybersecurity incidents against both government and commercial targets, Kellerman said.

While Vickers must have been under a lot of pressure to deal with the attacks, his ability to was somewhat limited, he said. "The US-CERT is insufficiently empowered right now. They are just firefighters," Kellerman said.

"They need to be able to do much more preventative work," but are lilely being hampered because of internal turf wars largely with the U.S Department of Defense, which has a major role in cybersecurity.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed. His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

Read more about malware and vulnerabilities in Computerworld's Malware and Vulnerabilities Topic Center.

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