Many cybersecurity experts believe that Russia was behind the devastating hack on the US Democratic National Committee (DNC) this year that has seen numerous confidential party documents leaked in the run-up to November’s presidential election.
Donald Trump has an alternate theory: That it was “someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”
On Monday, Trump went head-to-head with Hillary Clinton in the first of three debates between the two main party nominees for president.
One of the subjects discussed was national cybersecurity, with the candidates giving differing arguments.
Clinton argued that “there’s no doubt now that Russia has used cyberattacks against all kinds of organisations in our country, and I am deeply concerned about this.” Earlier this year, news broke that the DNC had been hacked, and the entity behind it — calling itself “Guccifer 2.0” — has been selectively leaking damaging internal documents ever since.
Many security experts believe that “Guccifer 2.0” is (despite its claims to the contrary) linked to Russian intelligence services in an apparent attempt to influence the outcome of the election. (Motherboard has a good round-up of some of the technical evidence for this.) But Donald Trump thinks otherwise.
“I don’t know if we know it was Russia who broke into the DNC,” Trump said at the debate. “[Clinton is] saying Russia, Russia, Russia. Maybe it was. It could also be China, it could be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”
He then segued into a criticism of the Democratic Party’s treatment of failed nominee Bernie Sanders, before vaguely asserting that the US has “lost control of” the internet.
“We have to get very, very tough on cyber and cyber warfare. It is a, it is a huge problem,” he said.
“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, but that’s true throughout our whole governmental society. We have so many things that we have to do better, Lester, and certainly cyber is one of them.”
Clinton identified cybersecurity as “one of the greatest challenges facing the next president,” and more clearly defined the current threats than her opponent. “We’re facing, at this point, two different kinds adversaries. There are the independent hacking groups that do it mostly for commercial reasons to try to steal information that they then can use to make money. But increasingly, we are seeing cyberattacks coming from states.”
“We recently learned that this is one of their preferred methods of trying to wreak havoc and collect information. We need to make it very clear, whether it’s Russia, China, Iran, or anybody else, the United States has much greater capacity.”
The former Secretary of State suggested that she would take a more proactive role in retaliating against alleged nation state attacks: “We are not going to sit idly by and permit state actors to go after our information, our private sector information or our public sector information, and we’re going to have to make it clear that we don’t want to use the kinds of tools that we have. We don’t want to engage in a different kind of warfare. But we will defend the citizens of this country, and the Russians need to understand that.”