Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump took the stage at Hofstra University during the first of the three presidential debates on Monday. While they disagreed on a broad range of topics, the presidential candidates at least agreed on one thing: The nation needs to be more forceful in terms of cyber warfare.
The discussion focused primarily on the hacks of the Democratic National Committee, with Clinton laying the blame for the attack squarely on Russian President Vladimir Putin and state actors working under his direction.
A long game
“Putin is playing a very tough, long game here. And one of the things he’s done is to let loose cyber attackers to hack into government files, hack personal files,” Clinton said.
Trump, meanwhile, said the Russian government wasn’t proven to be the perpetrator of the hack, before falling back on an insulting stereotype about computer hackers.
“I don’t think anyone knows it was Russia,” Trump said. “It could be Russia, it could be China and it could also be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”
While we have yet to receive any definitive answer as to exactly what group hacked the DNC, the vast majority of experts believe that the attacks came from Russia or Russian-backed actors.
In addition to the DNC hack, Clinton said the US needs to flex its cyber warfare muscles.
“We need to make it clear that the United States has much greater capacity and we are not going to sit idly by and let state actors go after private or public sector information,” Clinton said.
“We are going to make it clear that we don’t want to use the kinds of tools we have, we don’t want to use a different type of warfare, but we want to defend the citizens of this country,” Clinton said.
Before responding to Clinton, Trump claimed he has the support of a number of generals and admirals, as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. (The Los Angeles Times then noted that he most likely meant he had the support of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, the union representing immigration officers, as an official government agency like ICE would not endorse a presidential candidate.)
Trump then stated that the US should be better than anybody else.
“As far as the cyber, I agree to parts of what Secretary Clinton said. So we have to get very, very tough on the cyber and cyber warfare, “ Trump said. “We are not doing the job we should be doing.”
Here’s the thing, though. The US government already has the world’s most powerful cyber army, so it’s unclear how the US could do its job any better. It’s also important to note that the DNC is not a government entity.
Fighting terror on social media
Trump said the government should work more closely with tech companies to prevent ISIS from recruiting and directing operatives, something many politicians have brought up in the last few years.
Twitter and Facebook, however, have been making some effort to stop terrorists from using their networks. In fact, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg have been threatened by ISIS’ supporters for taking steps to fight the groups’ attempts to use the social networks as a means of spreading their agenda.
Unfortunately, neither Clinton nor Trump dug deeply enough into cyber security or other technology issues to provide any meaningful insights into how they would handle tech if they take up permanent residence in the White House.
There are still two more presidential debates and a vice presidential debate before Election Day. So hopefully the candidates will give us more of their thoughts on one of the most important industries in the world by then.
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