The head of the US cyberdefense agency has resigned unexpectedly, after a series of embarrassing government network breaches.

Randy Vickers, director of CERT (the Computer Emergency Readiness Team), has stepped down without a clear reason for his departure. As reported first by Reuters, a DHS (Department of Homeland Security) email announced the resignation on Monday, but the DHS declined to comment.

Vickers has been serving as the director of CERT for nearly three years, a time when the amount and seriousness of cyberattacks increased dramatically, particularly in the past six months. Indeed, many have assumed that the high-profile breaches of servers hosting the websites of the Senate, the CIA, the FBI and other United States government agencies by hacktivist groups such as Anonymous and LulzSec played a significant if not decisive factor in Vickers’ decision.

This revelation also comes soon after the announcement by the US deputy defense secretary that some 24,000 files, concerning high-tech weapons development by a Pentagon contractor, had been accessed by an unnamed foreign government agency in March. While a number of media sources have opined that this is a likely influence in the resignation, the DHS has as yet given no official confirmation of this assumption.

Before CERT, Vickers was the “Chief of the Department of Defense Computer Emergency Response Team (DOD-CERT) at the Joint Task Force, Global Network Operations. In this role, he led a team of technical experts focused on Net Defense operational reviews of all enemy actions against DoD Networks. He conducted threat level assessments, correlated network incidents across the DoD Global Information Grid, and developed DOD-wide security countermeasures and implementation strategies.”

Addressed from DHS acting assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications Roberta Stempfley, the email did not specify why Vickers chose to leave so abruptly, merely confirming that Vickers’ duties will be assumed for the time being by deputy director Lee Rock, of whom Stempfley said "we are confident that our organization will continue its strong performance under his leadership."

 

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