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DHS Appoints Weatherford Cybersecurity Chief

Former energy exec has extensive security experience working for the states of California and Colorado.

Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
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Slideshow: Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has tapped a former energy executive to work with cybersecurity partners across the country on issues that affect the federal government.

DHS secretary Janet Napolitano appointed Mark Weatherford, most recently VP and chief security officer of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), as the department's new deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity for the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD). NERC is an organization aimed at ensuring the reliability of North American power grids. The DHS NPPD is in charge of reducing threats to U.S. citizens, both physical and cyber.

NPPD undersecretary Rand Beers revealed the appointment in a DHS blog post. The DHS created the new position last month to complement the role of NPPD deputy undersecretary Suzanne Spaulding, who was appointed last month, according to an internal email by Beers obtained by InformationWeek.

While Spaulding focuses on reducing risk and bolstering the cybersecurity of U.S. critical infrastructure and federal facilities, including federal identity management and verification efforts, the new cybersecurity role will have an external focus, Beers said.

[Could an attack by an organization like Anonymous Cripple Critical U.S. Infrastructure?]

Weatherford will be in charge of ensuring the NPPD engages in "robust operations and strengthened partnerships in the constantly evolving field of cybersecurity," Beers said in the e-mail. The role entails working with private-sector partners to strengthen the overall cybersecurity position of the United States.

Before Weatherford's appointment, Greg Schaffer, who served as acting deputy undersecretary until Spaulding's appointment, has filled the position. Schaffer will continue to serve until Weatherford joins the DHS in mid-November, and then will resume his role as assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications, Beers said in his blog post.

The DHS has a unique position in the federal government as the lead agency on creating partnerships and sharing information with the private sector on issues of cybersecurity, work that the federal watchdog Government Accountability Office (GAO) has criticized in the past. The appointment of Weatherford is aimed at shoring up these efforts and making them more effective.

Though he most recently served in the private sector, Weatherford has significant cybersecurity experience in the public sector, mainly at the state-government level.

Prior to his work at NERC, he was the chief information security officer for the State of California's office of information security, and before that he worked to establish the State of Colorado's first cybersecurity program as chief security officer there.

Weatherford also has U.S. military experience as a former naval cryptologic officer, a role in which he led the Navy's computer network defense operations and the Naval Computer Incident Response Team.

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