As Chair of the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board (PCIPB), Howard Schmidt is responsible for protecting the nation's telecommunications and information technology infrastructure against a terrorist attack.
"The big concern is that there [might] be a physical attack that affects life, limb and property at the same time as an attack on 911 [emergency services] or [on] our telecommunication infrastructure, affecting our ability to respond," Schmidt said.
Experts have warned that hackers and terrorists could try and cripple systems — computer networks that monitor a city's water supply or air traffic, for example — to create further chaos.
Should such a crisis take place in cyberspace, Schmidt would coordinate efforts with the private and commercial sectors to bring the affected systems back to normal.
"In the past two years, we've come a long way, to be more secure and be more reactive [in responding] to things that happen. Could we sustain another [attack] that's disruptive? Yes. As far as something devastating, if we continue like we're doing, we reduce the chances of that every day," he added.
Focused on Cyber Security
In December 2001, Schmidt was named Special Assistant to the President and the Vice Chair of the PCIPB. The Cyber Security board supports National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, while focusing on building a specialized group of senior government and private sector leaders to focus on cyber security issues and coordination of security related incidents.
Previously, Howard was chief security officer for Microsoft Corporation, overseeing the Security Strategies Group, which was responsible for ensuring the development of a trusted computing environment via auditing, policy, and incubation of security products and practices.
Before Microsoft, Schmidt was a supervisory special agent and director of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI), Computer Forensic Lab and Computer Crime and Information Warfare Division. While there, he established the first dedicated computer forensic lab in the government. The AFOSI specialized in investigating intrusions in government and military systems.
Before working at AFOSI, Schmidt headed the Computer Exploitation Team at the FBI's National Drug Intelligence Center. He is recognized as one of the pioneers in the field of computer forensics and computer evidence collection. Before working at the FBI, he was a city police officer from 1983 to 1994 for the Chandler Police Department in Arizona.
Schmidt served with the U.S. Air Force in various roles from 1967 to 1983, both in active duty and in the civil service. He has served in the military reserves since 1989 and currently serves as a credentialed special agent in the U.S. Army Reserves, Criminal Investigation Division.
He has testified as an expert witness in federal and military courts in the areas of computer crime, computer forensics and Internet activity.
He also served as the international president of the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) and the Information Technology Information Sharing and Analysis Center (IT-ISAC). He is a former executive board member of the International Organization of Computer Evidence and served as the co-chairman of the Federal Computer Investigations Committee.