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Donald Trump's Attitude Toward Hacking Raises Concerns Among Cybersecurity Experts

His ideas on computer safety may embolden cybercriminals, they say.

03/01/2017 11:10 PM AEDT | Updated 04/01/2017 3:01 AM AEDT
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

President-elect Donald Trump’s stance on cybersecurity could be a dangerous go-ahead signal for hackers that may threaten America’s safety, business and even the economy, experts warn.

Trump had said in an October campaign speech that he would take on cyber criminals. But his weekend skepticism over intelligence reports of Russian interference in the U.S. election, along with remarks that “hacking is a very hard thing to prove” and “no computer is safe” has some cybersecurity analysts worried.

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

They also see his idea to restrict important information to paper and “have it sent by courier” as a backward step. It suggests a “willingness to slow down or roll back technological progress,” notes Fortune magazine. “A widespread transition back to pre-digital communication methods, even for only highly sensitive materials, would directly hamper economic growth,” the article states.

Cybersecurity experts are concerned that Trump could seriously undermine trust in electronic communication and impact business simply by doing nothing to protect a system that he doesn’t appear to have any faith in to begin with. And his attitude could point to a shift in cybersecurity policy from the innovative approaches of President Barack Obama and his predecessor George W. Bush, according to Ari Schwartz, who served as the top cybersecurity adviser on the National Security Council in 2015.

“We’re not going back to the world of couriers and letter-writing; we’re going to continue to do things online,” Schwartz told The Washington Post. “There are ways to do it where you can manage risk, and that’s really what the goal should be here — to get to the point where we can have the efficiencies and the benefits and still be secure.”

Of particular concern is that Trump’s attitude toward reports of cyberattacks on the U.S. could embolden foreign hackers and undermine the America’s ability to respond to them — threatening hacked businesses, consumers and national security.

“This is not some issue about a 400-pound hacker in a bedroom who might be mischievous,” Michael Sulmeyer, a former Defense Department policy adviser who directs the cybersecurity project for the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, told the Post. “These are real threats to our country, and the concerning part for me is to see how this issue has become politicized and made partisan.”

But incoming White House communications director Sean Spicer said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday that sanctions against Russia for possible hacking during the presidential campaign may be too harsh. That statement has experts worried it could send a message to hackers that they won’t be vigorously pursued and punished. 

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