Pres. Obama yesterday ordered a 60-day review of federal government programs designed to protect online info, including tax records, social security numbers, passport info and classified documents.

The president appointed Melissa Hathaway (pdf), who was a senior advisor to the National Intelligence director during the Bush administration, to head the review. Hathaway is  tasked with  reviewing all existing government cyber security  programs and recommending ways to improve them,  according to The Washington Post.

Hathaway in October wrote an op-ed piece for McClatchy-Tribune News Service (pdf) in which she called for "stronger international alliances to share the responsibility for securing cyberspace."

There have been several high-profile government cyber security lapses in the past few years. In 2001 and 2002, Brit Gary McKinnon allegedly broke into and deleted data from U.S. military and NASA computer systems, disrupting military operations and causing an estimated $700,000 in damage.

Other security glitches are more a matter of policy than technology. In March, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) laptop containing unsecured information about 2,500 participants enrolled in a cardiac study  being conducted by its National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) was stolen from the trunk of a researcher's car. This followed a 2006 incident during which a laptop with 26.5 million records containing Social Security numbers as well as medical information on veterans and their spouses was stolen from the home of a Veterans Affairs Department employee.

Image courtesy of dcJohn