Black Hat: Learn From Lincoln, Says U.S. Cyber Chief

For example, Abraham Lincoln had 'white hat' tendencies, and the challenges he faced from southern secessionists in the Civil War were not unlike those the open source community faces when one group decides it wants to "fork the code", Beckstrm said in a Thursday keynote speech at Black Hat in Las Vegas.

Beckstrm, who reports to Secretary Michael Chertoff, compared his task as head of the new National Cyber Security Center to that of Lincoln, as both roles involve facilitating collaboration and information sharing between intelligence, military, and government agencies.

George Mason, author of the 1776 Virginia Bill Of Rights and one of the least known Founding Fathers, served a role much like that of a systems engineer does today. Mason's work on the Virginia Bill Of Rights was like an "open source module for human rights", Beckstrm said.

"This was a fundamental piece of new system engineering," Beckstrm said.

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The DNS vulnerability underscores the critical need for government and the IT industry to boost investment in protecting key protocols, including BGP, SMS/IP, and even POTS (plain old telephone service).

Beckstrm noted that during natural disasters, SMS has proven to be an extremely resilient form of communications. "When bad things, happen text messages become critical to helping people stay alive and to coordinate rescue efforts," he said.

The rising tide of cybercrime dictates a need for stronger security, but privacy must also be preserved, and the IT security industry will play a central role in striking the proper balance between the two, according to Beckstrm.

"We can have more privacy and still have security. It's about finding the right set of balances," he said.