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Industry Reactions to Trump Firing CISA Director Chris Krebs: Feedback Friday

U.S. President Donald Trump this week fired Christopher Krebs, the director of the DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), after he refuted claims of electoral fraud and vouched for the integrity of the recent presidential election.

Days before Trump announced the decision, Krebs said he expected to get fired by the White House over content posted on CISA’s Rumor Control website, whose goal is to debunk misinformation regarding the election.

Bryan Ware, assistant director for cybersecurity at CISA, also left the agency, reportedly after the White House asked him to resign.

Brandon Wales, CISA’s first executive director, has been appointed the agency’s acting director following the departure of Krebs.

 Reactions to Donald Trump firing the director of CISA

Several officials and cybersecurity professionals have criticized the decision to fire Krebs.

And the feedback begins…

Jamil N. Jaffer, founder of George Mason University Scalia Law School's National Security Institute and Former White House Executive During the Bush Administration:

“While the presence or absence of one individual or entity only has a limited effect on the overall risk posture of our nation, to be sure, without the kind of transformative leadership that Chris Krebs showed as the leader of a new agency in CISA and his effort to promote collective defense capabilities across the public and private sectors, we could go back to the historical siloed approach of defense limiting the progress we’ve made in recent years. Our adversaries are going to be punching from all angles and coming at us in an organized manner, so we also need to defend in the same way.

 

Chris Krebs’ termination comes at a time when nations like Russia and other foreign adversaries are pushing narratives aimed at creating distrust, polarizing discourse and undermining our core rule of law institutions, including the Justice Department, FBI and Intelligence Community. In that context, the forced departure of a senior official on the front lines of the defensive effort can further undermine our national efforts to combat these foreign narratives. Indeed, it wouldn't surprise me if our foreign adversaries seek to capitalize on this opportunity to continue and expand their efforts to create a state of distrust in our country.”

Jerry Ray, COO, SecureAge:

“While unlikely that the firing of the CISA Director will inspire cyber attacks from abroad on critical infrastructure in the US because systems appear more vulnerable today than yesterday, industry partners, observers, and US citizens certainly will be skeptical of any statements made by CISA about the election or anything else between now and January 2021.

 

Supporters of the President will have bought in to his claims of CISA and its Director having failed completely and lied about election security. And detractors of the President will assume that anyone who accepts such a tenuous appointment by the lame duck President as the new Director will be complicit in his claims. Until the Biden administration can take over, the best outcome for now would be an interim appointment of someone within CISA who built the Agency together with Krebs.”

Robert M. Lee, CEO and Co-Founder, Dragos:

“There have been a lot of questions about roles and responsibilities across the government including where CISA fits in and where they don’t. There have been no questions, though, on Chris Krebs’ effectiveness. He focused on what he needed to focus on. He led his team with dignity. He was a public figure representing the agency in the community. And when the nation needed CISAs attention on protecting our voting and fundamentals of democracy he did with zeal and expertise. The next administration should keep Chris if he’s willing to stay and regardless folks should be thankful for his time there.”

Chloé Messdaghi, VP of Strategy, Point3 Security:

“Our nation’s security relies in large part on highly qualified public sector cybersecurity professionals and Pentagon officials to do all within their power to keep this country safe and our elections fair. Christopher Krebs is among the best of the best of these.

 

The United States needs the depth of experience or evenhandedness that he and his team have brought to our nation’s cybersecurity.

 

CISA was created to provide more and better cybersecurity and trusted communications channels to and for our country, to monitor and alert us to threats, and to reduce misinformation. It has succeeded in this mission to the fullest extent possible.

 

It is in large part because of Christopher Krebs and his team that CISA exists in the shape, scope and degree of effectiveness that it does today. He has been clear, transparent and has operated with the best intent. He and the team have provided the analysis and transparency that have cut through the noise of misinformation and false claims.

 

He’s opened the door to the independent researchers of the ethical hacker community as never before, which has yielded timely insight on emerging threats and actionable intelligence to the forefront.

 

Many in legislation seek additional insight into security and cybersecurity. Christopher Krebs has elevated the importance of cybersecurity, worked to help support and increase the essential understanding of emerging threats across all branches of government, and continually clarified misinformation.

 

He has worked with politicians on both sides of the aisle, helping them to gain better insights into what our government can do to keep our citizens safe. He pushed for vulnerability disclosure policies across the country, which are so urgently needed to protect us from threats and attacks.

 

It is up to CISA to help America understand cybersecurity threats and misinformation. Christopher Krebs is utterly nonpartisan and he deserves his CISA post in every way. He has earned the nation’s trust and faith, and worked tirelessly to help secure the current election cycle. We owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.”

Jonathan Reiber, Senior Director for Cybersecurity Strategy and Policy, AttackIQ:

“As the first-ever director of the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Chris Krebs worked tirelessly and in a bipartisan fashion with state, local, and federal leaders on both sides of the aisle to improve election security across the country. The 2020 election saw no major cyberattack take place, and the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council and the National Secretaries of State called it the most secure in U.S. history. Given the Russian government's intrusion into the U.S. presidential election of 2016 and the risks facing the election this year, that is a big achievement, and it is due in large part to the leadership of Chris Krebs’ and General Paul Nakasone of U.S. Cyber Command and their organizations' hard work.


The United States needs trusted, rational, calm leaders to secure the integrity of U.S. elections in the pre- and post-election period, including against disinformation. Chris Krebs epitomizes the best spirit of bipartisanship that you could ask for in this role amid what has become a politicized public issue. Despite an array of complex misinformation campaigns, he has managed to build a top-tier agency that has earned the public's trust through actionable insight into not just our elections, but the entirety of our nation’s most critical infrastructure.”

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.