As the Biden administration begins implementing changes in the executive branch, securing the federal IT infrastructure is one of the most vital tasks at hand. To that effort, President Biden has appointed Chris DeRusha as the next Federal Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), transitioning from his role as the top cyber official of the Biden campaign.
DeRusha is a veteran of federal cybersecurity, previously serving as a senior advisor to President Obama during the development of the CISO position. Before joining the Biden campaign, DeRusha most recently served as the chief security officer for the state of Michigan, where he helped lay the groundwork for U.S. cybersecurity best practices. After major breaches in government infrastructure plagued 2020, the new chief will have to work quickly with several agencies to combat immediate and future concerns.
The U.S. is suffering from multiple cybersecurity emergencies at once: continued fallout from the SolarWinds cyberattack, a multitude of election-related security problems, the complex-yet-crucial undertaking of cloud migration from government legacy systems, COVID data management, and more. When it comes to protecting America’s digital infrastructure, threats abound from both within and outside the country’s borders.
DeRusha also gained much of his cybersecurity expertise from time in the Department of Homeland Security, where he spent the majority of the Obama administration as a strategist and advisor. He wields the kind of inside information about the federal IT infrastructure needed to attack these problems on day one. U.S. cybersecurity requires a knowledgeable and agile IT workforce, and the government is likely lacking in both skills and numbers. As the head of cybersecurity in Michigan, DeRusha managed a staff of 140 employees and oversaw a $31 billion budget. The disparity between state numbers and federal figures notwithstanding, he knows what the department needs to function—and better yet, succeed.
DeRusha will not be alone in his efforts to secure America’s cyber infrastructure. New Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, formerly deputy of the same, has a strong eye toward prioritizing cybersecurity, previously focusing on the cyber threat-sharing system and engagement with the civilian sector. However, DHS has its hands full already, and the two-year-old Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is still without a senate-confirmed director.
Under President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Recovery Plan, Chief DeRusha’s department would receive a $10 billion boost to the cybersecurity budget. Thankfully, he brings with him a positive attitude toward public service, and the know-how to re-fortify America’s IT infrastructure before the next breach.