Trump’s Worst Claims About ‘Cyber’


In September of 2016, during a debate at Hofstra University, journalist Lester Holt asked presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump how they would improve cyber security. When it was Trump’s turn to respond, he let go a torrent of ideas barely connected on “cyber. The stream of consciousness started with the number of admirals who approved it, reiterated its long-held theme that no one could prove Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee, cryptically noted that “we came with an Internet, we found the Internet,” referred to ISIS “beating our own game”, and ultimately ended with these words:

“I have a son. He’s 10 years old. He has computers. He’s so good with these computers, it’s amazing. The security aspect of cybersecurity is very, very difficult. And maybe it is. is hardly doable. But I will say, we are not doing the job that we should be doing. “

At that point, it became clear to cybersecurity professionals around the world that, if this man got the most powerful office in America, the next few years of politics were going to be very painful to listen to.

Indeed, while Trump has earned a deserved reputation as the most dishonest president in American history on a multitude of topics, few have inspired as much misinformation on his part as “cyber”. And no other problem, perhaps, has provided the confluence of factors to produce overwhelming Trumpisms at such a high rate: complexity, ignorance of technical issues, and blatant conflicts of interest.

Like Trump’s term – and his Twitter feed– finish, these are the dreadful cybersecurity claims and quotes that will resonate for years to come.

The DNC got hacked

Trump’s first major declaration on cybersecurity as a presidential candidate was also one of his most absurd. In June 2016, The Washington Post broke the news this Russian hackers penetrated the Democratic National Committee and stolen information that included the DNC’s opposition research files on Trump. Security firm CrowdStrike, which had helped the DNC defend and respond to hackers, quickly attributed the breach to two Russian hacking groups known as Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear.

Yet within 24 hours Trump had issued a statement to the press with his own baseless analysis: “We think it was the DNC that did the ‘hack’ as a way to distract from the many issues facing their deeply flawed candidate and the failed party leader.” He added another jab related to Clinton’s private mail server, whose deleted messages were still under FBI investigation: “Too bad the DNC doesn’t hack Crooked Hillary’s 33,000 missing emails. ” (These missing emails would become another leitmotif for Trump: he would later claim in a presidential debate and beyond that Clinton had “acid washed” or “laundered” the emails to destroy them and hide them from the public. In fact, his IT staff had used the open-source BitBleach removal tool to remove his non-work-related emails from the server, months before the FBI asked them to keep them.)

‘Russia, if you listen’

Less than six weeks after accusing the DNC of hacking itself, Trump’s rhetoric has swung in the opposite direction: he actively called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton and leak her emails. “Russia, if you listen, I hope you will be able to find the 30,000 missing emails. I think you will be greatly rewarded by our press,” Trump said. “If Russia, China, or any other country has these emails, to be honest with you, I’d like to see them.” Although Trump’s supporters and surrogates dismissed the remark as a joke, the statement had serious implications amid Russia’s hack and flight operation targeting the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. And that remained a weirdly explicit public wish for the kind of collusion with Russian intelligence that Trump would continue to deny for years to come. the investigation into FBI Special Advocate Robert Mueller will later show that Russian hackers had managed to phish Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta months earlier, causing him to give up his Gmail password, and were continuing to send phishing emails to Clinton’s assistants while even as Trump was making his flippant request for Russian hacking help.

The 400-pound hacker

From Trump well-known debate answer on “cyber” also included a new theory on who actually carried out the DNC hack, which has since come to represent every armchair detective’s unfounded skepticism of hacker forensics. “She says Russia, Russia, Russia,” Trump said, referring to Clinton’s statements about hacking, based on such glaring evidence as the Russian formatting error messages in the documents leaked by the DNC. “Maybe it was. It could also be China. It could be someone sitting on their bed weighing 400 pounds.” The mythical 400-pound hacker has since become practically a meme among cybersecurity pros pointing to lazy attribution. This too inspired a renewed discussion of bodily shame.

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By July 2017, six months after starting his presidential term, Trump had undoubtedly received countless intelligence briefings confirming that Russia was responsible for the violations of the DNC and Clinton campaign. After all, the office of the director of national intelligence issued a statement in October of the previous year, backed by 17 intelligence agencies, blaming the Kremlin with “great confidence.” But Trump still consulted his own source: Vladimir Putin. On a trip to the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, Trump said, he discussed the election interference campaign with Putin in private. His takeaway? “I said, ‘Did you do it?’ And he said, “No, I didn’t. Absolutely not, ”Trump said in an interview with Reuters. “I then asked him a second time in a totally different way. He said no. In another tweet following his meeting with Putin, Trump launched the Russian president’s suggestion that the United States and Russia jointly form a “impenetrable cybersecurity unit“to avoid further electoral interference. Former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter likened the idea to” the guy who robbed your house by proposing a burglary task force. “

“Ukraine… the server… CrowdStrike?

It’s one thing for Trump to have asked who really hacked into the DNC in public appearances, years after his own intelligence agencies gave him the answer – a sort of willful ignorance aimed at influencing perceptions of the public. But it is another matter for Trump to have chased absurd DNC hacking theories in private conversations, a sign that he might have been drinking so much from the Kool-Aid plot that he had come to believe his own lies. This was revealed in the transcript of a conversation Trump had in the summer of 2019 with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: the phone call was revealed because a whistleblower overheard Trump trying to lobby on Zelensky to open an investigation into the son of rival Trump politician Joe Biden – the demand that would ultimately lead to Trump’s first impeachment. But the call transcript too captured Trump asking vague questions to Zelensky on CrowdStrike server in Ukraine, an element of a strange, fake story about how CrowdStrike helped cover what really happened inside the DNC network. “I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say CrowdStrike… I guess you have one of your rich people… The waiter, they say Ukraine the at. There’s a lot that happened, the whole situation, ”Trump said. It does not matter CrowdStrike is not a Ukrainian company. Or that no server provided a full picture of the DNC violation. Or that the DNC shared a preserved digital image of its systems with the FBI and CrowdStrike, not a physical server. Or that the FBI concluded that Russian agents had indeed hacked into the network. The real revelation of the Zelensky call was that Trump will always live in his own alternate reality.

“ Nobody gets hacked ”

Just days before the November 2020 presidential election, Trump took a moment at a campaign rally to mock C-Span political editor Steve Scully, who was suspended from his post for falsely claiming that ‘a tweet he sent was the work of a hacker. “No one is hacked. To be hacked you need someone with 197 IQs and they need about 15% of your password, ”Trump said. Trump’s statements were followed by a report a few days later that his own Twitter feed had been hacked by a security researcher, reports that confirmed in december. The same week that his claim “no one is hacked,” federal agencies unsealed a indictment against six hackers of the Russian military intelligence agency GRU during five years of attacks including the most destructive cyberattack in history, imposed new sanctions Moscow research institute responsible for particularly dangerous malware, and issued a public warning regarding a ongoing hacking campaign supposed to be carried out by the FSB.

A rigged election

Both before, during and after the November 2020 election that he lost deeply to Joe Biden, Trump has repeatedly spoken out against all security and cybersecurity assurances of the 2020 election. Trump’s attacks on election integrity were so incessant – from the debate phase to his Twitter feed, making baseless statements about the voting of deceased people, bogus postal ballots and faulty or hacked voting machines – that it’s hard to point out a single statement as the most blatant. In total, however, they may be the most damaging to American democracy of all his false claims about cybersecurity.

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