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Is Giuliani a Good Choice for Cyberczar?

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on January 17, 2017 2:56 PM

President-elect Donald Trump announced that Rudy Giuliani would be serving the new administration as a cybersecurity advisor last week. As "cyberczar" the former mayor of New York will lead a government cybersecurity task force and conduct meetings "from time to time" with corporate leaders.

The post, which comes with no official title, is considered a consolation prize for Giuliani, long one of Trump's main backers. But the choice has also been criticized by many who view Giuliani as unprepared to advise the government on important technological issues, particularly in light of Russian hacking during the past election.

Giuliani's New Role

As cyberczar, Giuliani "will be sharing his expertise and insight as a trusted friend concerning private sector cyber security problems and emerging solutions developing in the private sector," according to a statement from the transition team. "This is a rapidly evolving field both as to intrusions and solutions and it is critically important to get timely information from all sources."

His main role will be as liaison, helping bring together industry leaders in order to "obtain experiential and anecdotal information" about cybersecurity challenges.

Giuliani, who had campaigned to become secretary of state, described the post as a "great privilege."

Does Giuliani Have What It Takes?

So, what does Giuliani bring to the job? For one, he's been working in the security field for the past 16 years. He currently serves as the chair of Greenberg Traurig's cybersecurity, privacy, and crisis management practice, and has his own security consulting firm, Giuliani Partners.

But Giuliani is a lawyer, and that seems to be reflected in his consultancy's approach to cybersecurity. It doesn't issue white papers, which is typical of the industry, and, according to Motherboard, focuses more on "traditional anti-crime consulting work" than tech issues. "If you hired them on a cyber engagement, they are going to tell you what your legal obligations are and how to manage the legal risk related to cyber," according to one cybersecurity exec.

"We're all raising our eyebrows about Mr. Giuliani being the right pick for this," one Silicon Valley security executive told Foreign Policy. (Almost all business leaders who expressed skepticism did so anonymously.)

Still, some argue, the government doesn't need a computer engineer to manage its cybersecurity efforts. It doesn't take an expert's understanding of nitty-gritty security info to bring together private sector leaders and government officials. You don't need experiences in the trenches in order to act as a facilitator, after all.

Some even see the choice of a former prosecutor as cybersecurity advisor as an indication that the government could be taking a more aggressive stance toward threats. "On the one hand it's cronyism at its best," Alexander Urbelis, a cybersecurity lawyer with the Blackstone Law Group told Motherboard, "on the other hand Giuliani is not a bad person when it comes to law enforcement."

That might not be enough to quell the skeptics, though. Neither will the fact that, once Giuliani's new position was announced, security experts began poking around Giuliani Partners' website and found it "years out of date and potentially utterly hackable."

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