Vernon Young Jr./U.S. Air Force



Cybersecurity, Mad Dogs and Trump Nominees

When I was growing up cybersecurity was my dog, who was a Siberian Husky who guarded the house, hence Siber(-ian) security. Now, this issue has become one of critical importance in all areas of society. Due to the connectivity of the internet, all of our personal, financial and institutional data are in a constant state of vulnerability. Because of this modern war front, competence regarding the evolution and deployment of our cybersecurity strategies is essential. This is why my concerns over Trump’s recent cabinet appointments have me shaking my head.

General James Mattis has his critics. He is accused of leaving marines to die in combat and has a reputation for feuding with other branches of the military. However, these criticisms, although valid and frightening, are not what concern me. According to reports, Trump expects our Secretary of Defense, a man trained in conventional warfare, to take on the responsibility of our nation’s cybersecurity.

I am not usually overly concerned with national security. My position is that we overspend on the military and over-police the world. Additionally, I don’t have an axe to grind with General Mattis. I know he has his critics, but he worked in a very difficult world of warfare where mistakes will be made. Perfection is not expected.

Of Trump’s nominees, he seems to be the most level headed, thoughtful and qualified of the bunch. He displays compelling leadership traits that people seem to admire and gravitate toward. But this is a man whose battlefields were actual fields and his enemies were fighting with guns, explosives and other armaments, not digits and codes. If he were left to assume the position under normal directives, I feel his appointment would be easily justifiable.

However, president-elect Donald Trump has suggested that he will assume responsibility for the cyber front. Currently organizations like the NSA and others whose background, training and skills fit the battlefront that is the modern cyber-world. This is a battleground where all of our data resides: personal, financial, governmental, business…basically everything.

And this all is happening as Trump is under investigation for conspiring with Putin to tilt the election using cyber tactics, while Hillary’s email leaks became a dominant narrative in the closing days before the election.

And beyond cyber security, there seems to be an increasing sense that cyberspace is the Wild West. Considerations for Constitutional protections of privacy don’t seem to apply for this president as he expresses his desire to have such invasive practices as Muslim registries, stop and frisk in addition to his wall. These all point to a hostile relationship with the people of this country. We are entering a period where we are guilty until proven innocent and as such, we are subject to military oversight.

Perhaps I’m just paranoid. According to Maryville University, the government is already behind the times as far as cybersecurity goes. Some of this was seen in the events leading up to this year’s election. So perhaps an infusion of new thinking from a tactical mind is needed, but this seems like an attempt at governmental overreach, cronyism and a poor understanding of the modern threat. And even if we get lucky and this works, it feels like that is our only hope for an effective strategy that doesn’t quickly become Orwellian.