As a hacker and organizer of Defcon, an event where computer security vulnerabilities and exploits are routinely unveiled, Jeff Moss seemed an unusual choice when he was named to the Homeland Security Advisory Council in June.
But his background and lack of government experience brings a fresh, outsider's perspective to a public sector plagued by a fast-changing threat landscape, perpetual turf wars, and bureaucratic inertia.
With National Cyber Security Awareness Month under way, CNET News discussed with Moss his new role, his thoughts on the national ID card debate, and how the government wants to use social media sites for public emergency alerts. This edited interview is the first of two parts. Part two will run on Monday.
Q: So, how's it going on the Homeland Security Advisory Council? Moss: It's going pretty well, it's pretty exciting actually. Recently we did a recommendation, I'm sure you read about it, the homeland security color codes. There are the five color codes. Normally the country is on like yellow or orange. I think we've only been to red once. But we've never been to the two lowest, blue and green. So the system was up for review. It turns out that the color codes work really well for industry and government. They have procedures in place. They do things automatically when the color codes are changed. It is actually successful for them but for the third group that uses them, civilians, it actually doesn't work well at all.
Right. We don't understand it. We're like, what does it mean? Is it real? Moss: How does it give us any actionable information? How should we change our behavior based on it? That's what came out of the report was that it's very hard for civilians to do anything with it and it causes confusion, and it's the No. 1 source of ridicule. The system needs to stay because it's valuable for the other two groups, but it needs to change was the conclusion of the report. So they had a couple of recommendations and one was to just get rid of the two lowest colors because honestly we've never been at them; make the new normal orange. Three levels is probably more realistic than having five. The U.K. doesn't have five either, I think they have three. … Read more