Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump squared off on Monday during the first presidential debate, and the two candidates presented wildly different views on cyber war and cyber security. The Democratic candidate said the United States needed to push back against state actors, while Trump warned of a mythical “400-pound” hacker sitting on his bed.
“We need to make it very clear whether it’s Russia, China, or Iran, or anybody else, that the United States has great capacity and we are not going to sit idly by and let state actors go after our information,” Clinton said of the growing trend of seemingly state-sponsored hacks into American computer systems. The former U.S Secretary of State stressed the need to push back, hinting that the U.S. could, if it wanted to, engage in a much higher form of cyber warfare.
“I am deeply concerned about this,” Clinton said. “I know Donald’s very praiseworthy of Vladimir Putin, but Putin is playing a really long game here.”
“We will defend the citizens of this country. They’ve been treating this as almost a probing,” Clinton said. “And that’s why I was so shocked when Donald invited Putin to hack into Americans,” she continued, referencing Trump’s wish that Russia would hack into her computers to find missing emails.
In response, Trump pushed back on the idea that Russia — or any other state actor — was behind the recent hack, although he pivoted, briefly, to take a dig at Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC’s misconduct towards the Bernie Sanders campaign.
Here’s Trump, who previously has said not much of value on the cyber war:
“I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC,” he said. “It could be Russia, it could also be China, it could also be somebody who could be sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”
Widespread consensus is that Russia was indeed behind the hacking of Democratic Party computer systems, according to outlets like The Washington Post.
Trump, who previously remarked that “the cyber is so big,” returned to the subject during his response:
“We have so many things that we have to do better, Lester, and certainly cyber is one of them,” he told moderator Lester Holt.
“The truth is under President Obama we’ve lost control over things we used to have control of,” Trump said. “We came in with the internet; we came up with the internet. And I think Secretary Clinton and myself would agree very much that when you look at what ISIS is doing with the internet, they’re beating us.”
In a later response, Clinton said she has “put forth a plan to defeat ISIS [and] it does involve going after them online.”
“The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough, and maybe it’s hardly doable,” Trump said, encouragingly.
Finally, Trump seemed to own his willful ignorance about the sophistication of cyber warfare with this quip:
“I have a son that is 10 years old. He is so good with those computers.”