The following editorial appeared in the Kansas City Star on Monday, Aug. 10:

Last month, a surge of cyber attacks temporarily crashed more than two dozen government and commercial Web sites in the United States and South Korea.

Experts described the attacks as minor, but they emphasized a growing threat and offered a reminder for the Obama administration that it should move more quickly on this front. With so much of our lives, histories and finances all online, this is a huge problem.

So far, the White House has made little progress in boosting the nation’s cyber security.

In May, President Barack Obama announced a new effort to “deter, prevent, detect and defend” attacks by computer. A 38-page plan was made public, but it offered few details about how those goals would be met.

And the plan failed to resolve longstanding turf battles among various government agencies with a hand in computer operations, such as the National Security agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

More recently, the administration’s acting cyber security “czar,” Melissa Hathaway, announced that she was resigning for “personal reasons.”

Now there are reports the White House is having trouble filling the position. That’s not surprising, given that the job has been treated like a bureaucratic football.

As a result of White House infighting, the cyber security czar would have to report both to the National Security Council and the National Economic Council, a muddled arrangement that makes little sense.

Critics rightly point out that whoever would occupy the post would probably accomplish little under the current organizational structure.

“The position just isn’t high enough in the White House food chain to attract the most qualified people,” Tom Kellerman of Core Security Technologies told Computerworld.com. Kellerman was part of a 40-person panel led by the Center for Strategic and International Studies that offered recommendations to the president earlier this year.

Last month’s cyber attacks targeted not only agencies like the Treasury Department and Secret Service, but the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq trading system. Last week cyber attacks briefly brought down the Twitter microblogging site and disrupted Facebook, shocking the chattering millions and raising awareness about the potential for more serious harm.

Those attacks might have been amateurish from the point of view of experts. But they raised big questions about whether a more sophisticated effort could have caused real damage, not to mention financial disruption.

Obama says he’s determined to boost the nation’s preparedness in this regard. A first step would be clearing up the organizational muddle surrounding the cyber security position. That might make it possible to attract a strong personality to take the job and begin leading the effort to diminish the threat.