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Former U.S. Cybersecurity Expert to Join eBay

Former U.S. cybersecurity czar Howard Schmidt is heading to eBay, in a move that signals the auction giant's interest in clamping down on online fraud.

eBay spokesman Chris Donlay confirmed that Schmidt will help protect eBay's electronic infrastructure, serving as its vice president for security. The news comes less than two weeks after widespread reports that he might leave the government post.

Schmidt will start at the auctioneer in the next few weeks, Donlay told internetnews.com.

"Security has always been important at eBay, but the company is growing quickly and lots of departments are being expanded," Donlay said. "This seems like the right time to expand security, especially with a high profile person such as Schmidt."

Although Donlay did not provide details on Schmidt's duties, one of his priorities is expected to be online auction fraud, which has plagued the e-commerce industry for years, but seems to be almost epidemic of late.

In one recent major case, a woman was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison after she admitted selling computers via eBay and never shipping the merchandise to the buyers.

The Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC), a site run by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center, reported that it referred 48,252 fraud complaints to federal, state and/or local law enforcement authorities last year. The year before there were 16,775 referrals.

Moreover, the Federal Trade Commission, who has been cracking down on online fraud in the last several months, said earlier this week that as many as 57 cases involving criminal or civil violations are currently pending with at least 37 individuals charged and under prosecution for alleged crimes.

Schmidt has a long security track record, having served as Microsoft's chief security strategist for years before becoming vice chairman of the federal Critical Infrastructure Protection Board in 2001. He later helped draft the government's cybersecurity plan, unveiled in February.

News of Schmidt's impending departure from the high-profile government position came on April 21, with published reports getting hold of an informal resignation e-mail.

"With the historic creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the transfer of many of the responsibilities from the Critical Infrastructure Protection Board to DHS and the release of the strategy, I have decided to retire after approximately 31 years of public service and return to the private sector," Schmidt wrote in the e-mail.