State Department Cyber Coordinator Steps Down

Christopher Painter, then-coordinator for cyber issues at the State Department, addresses the Akamai Government Forum on March 28, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: David Keith for MeriTalk)

The State Department’s cyber coordinator will be stepping down at the end of this month, according to reports from Politico.

Chris Painter has been creating a strategic framework for cybersecurity during peacetime and gaining support from other countries. The framework includes a global affirmation that international law applies to cyberspace, voluntary norms of behavior in cyberspace, and development of confidence and trust between countries.

“There’s general agreement even among our ‘frenemies’ that international law applies,” Painter said at the Akamai Government Forum in March. “We’ve gotten a lot of speed in moving toward this framework. We still have more to do. We need to get more countries to sign up.”


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Painter was one of the leaders who helped negotiate the cybersecurity working group between the United States and Israel after President Donald Trump’s meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The United States is working with other countries to ensure that they define the roles and responsibilities on the mitigation of cyberattacks across government. The State Department wants other countries’ networks to be secure because the United States’ networks often overlap in order for nations to work together and communicate.

The State Department has more than 100 cyber diplomats at agencies around the world. When the United States experienced a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on its financial institutions from a foreign actor, the State Department was able to use diplomatic means to ask foreign leaders to help mitigate the attack.

“There’s a much better understanding that this is a key issue that’s not going away,” Painter said.

Painter said that one of the threats to diplomatic policy is states that draw borders around their cybersecurity to control all of the information that citizens can access. These countries often see the Internet as a threat to stability, whereas the United States sees it as a tool for economic growth.

“If we use security as a way to limit the positive things about the Internet, that’s going to cause big problems down the road,” Painter said.

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