It feels like decades ago, but it was only three-and-a-half weeks back that Republican presidential candidate and proud papa Donald Trump gave this meandering, illogical answer about cybersecurity at the first presidential debate. "So we had to get very, very tough on cyber and cyber warfare. It is a huge problem," Trump began, before he started to sound a bit off. "I have a son — he’s 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers. It’s unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe, it's hardly doable. But I will say, we are not doing the job we should be doing.
So… could Trump’s son have saved us from Friday’s DDoS attack, which disabled large chunks of the internet? No offense to little Barron, but the answer is no.
What should be more alarming for voters this fall is that neither candidate has a comprehensive plan for countering cyber attacks.
In an excellent, in-depth piece from Lifehacker, Thorin Klowsowski dove deep into both candidates’ platforms and past remarks on cybersecurity. The only places cybersecurity shows up on Hillary Clinton’s website is on the National Security issues page in reference to China and on the Technology and Innovation page a vague promise to “promote cyber security at home and abroad.”
Up until the beginning of October, Trump didn’t have much by way of a plan either, but following his disastrous answer on cybersecurity at the first presidential debate, he outlined what, at first blush, looked almost like a real plan to bolster cybersecurity. “The United States must possess unquestioned capacity to launch crippling counter-cyberattacks,” Trump said at a speech delivered to the Retired American Warriors PAC. “This is the warfare of the future. ... America’s dominance in this arena must be unquestioned and today, it’s totally questioned.”
But drilling down into Trump’s Cybersecurity policy page, it’s unclear what, if anything, his plans would amount to, other than establishing a Cyber Review Team. Frankly, to me, it gives the impression that his website is written by a 10th grader who’s finishing an English paper at the last minute armed with no research and only a thesaurus. “The Cyber Review Team will provide specific recommendations for safeguarding different entities with the best defense technologies tailored to the likely threats, and will followed up regularly at various Federal agencies and departments,” says. I taught university composition for three years, and I don’t even know where to begin with this sentence.
What is being made apparent by Friday’s attack is not just that our internet infrastructure is extremely vulnerable, but that our leaders (and possibly our citizens) don’t seem to be equipped to understand the problems and combat them. The real moment of reckoning will come when these attacks don’t just disrupt our lunch orders — but start disrupting our economy, as well.