President Obama on Friday promised a stronger emphasis on protecting and improving the nation's cyber-infrastructure, including the appointment of a "cybersecurity czar" to oversee and coordinate strategies, and increased funding for security and education in both the public and private sector.

In his speech, accompanying the release of a 76-page White House report on the government's cybersecurity policy, Obama framed the need for better defenses against hackers, data thieves, and foreign cyberattacks as both a political and economic imperative.

"Every day we see waves of cyber thieves trolling for sensitive information — the disgruntled employee on the inside, the lone hacker a thousand miles away, organized crime, the industrial spy and, increasingly, foreign intelligence services," Obama said. "America's economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on cybersecurity."

Obama also stated that "Our pursuit of cyber security will not — I repeat, will not include — monitoring private sector networks or Internet traffic. We will preserve and protect the personal privacy and civil liberties that we cherish as Americans."

"Indeed, I remain firmly committed to Net Neutrality so we can keep the Internet as it should be — open and free," Obama added.

National Security Council (NSC) cybersecurity chief Melissa Hathaway, widely speculated to be a candidate for Obama's cybersecurity czar position, said that "Protecting cyberspace requires strong vision and leadership and will require changes in policy, technology, education, and perhaps law."

Among the recommendations in Obama's cybersecurity plan:

  •  Appoint a cybersecurity policy official or "czar" to coordinate national cybersecurity strategies responsible
  •  Prepare a cybersecurity incident response plan and work with the private sector to smooth partnerships and information sharing on cybersecurity efforts
  •  Designate a privacy and civil liberties official to the NSC cybersecurity directorate.
  •  Initiate a national public awareness and education campaign to promote cybersecurity.

Response to the plan was generally positive, though some criticized the White House for lacking specific recommendations. Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer of BT Counterpane and noted security expert, said that "I am optimistic about President Obama's new cybersecurity policy and the appointment of a new 'cybersecurity coordinator,' though much depends on the details."

Obama's renewed support for net neutrality, the principle that all Internet content should be accessed equally, also won praise. "President Obama's speech today makes it clear that he considers Net Neutrality an essential component of his administration's sweeping Internet agenda," said Craig Aaron, senior program director of Free Press.