Cybersecurity and the presidential campaign

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In a speech delivered Wednesday at Purdue University, Sen. Barack Obama warned of the dangers of new forms of terrorism that could damage the United States. After detailing threats from nuclear and biological weapons, the presidential candidate outlined what he envisioned for a cybersecurity infrastructure that would protect the nation's computer networks and strengthen science and computer education programs.

“Every American depends – directly or indirectly – on our system of information networks. They are increasingly the backbone of our economy and our infrastructure; our national security and our personal well-being. But it's no secret that terrorists could use our computer networks to deal us a crippling blow,” he said.

Should the election go his way, cybersecurity would be made a top priority in his administration, he said.

“I'll declare our cyber-infrastructure a strategic asset, and appoint a national cyber adviser who will report directly to me. We'll coordinate efforts across the federal government, implement a truly national cyber-security policy, and tighten standards to secure information – from the networks that power the federal government, to the networks that you use in your personal lives.”

He said that to protect national security, it would be important to bring together “government, industry and academia to determine the best ways to guard the infrastructure that supports our power.”

The mandate should be to prevent terrorists or spies from hacking into national security networks, and to build the capacity to identify, isolate and respond to any cyber-attack.

Asked for comment, Richard Clarke, a partner at Good Harbor Consulting,
who has served the last three presidents as a senior White House advisor, told SCMagazineUS.com on Thursday that he advised on Obama's cybersecurity proposal. “So obviously I think it's sound.”

Though little comparable information exists on the presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain's website, in a speech in Indianapolis on July 1 before The National Sheriffs' Association, the senator did address the topic, albeit from an information-sharing perspective.

McCain said, “…today, what's often needed most are more personnel and better technologies for tracking criminals, gathering data, and sharing vital information. We need to make certain that every agency is working with others where necessary, so that the miscommunications and missed opportunities before 9/11 are never repeated. To protect our energy supply, air and rail transport, banking and financial services, we need to invest far more in the federal task of cybersecurity...In the case of any suspected terrorist, we must make certain that law enforcement knows who they are, where they are, and what they're up to.”


Marcus Sachs, executive director of government affairs for national security policy at Verizon, and a member of the Commission on Cyber Security for the 44th Presidency, told SCMagazineUS.com on Thursday that, "It's good for Obama to speak publicly about cybersecurity and I wish that both candidates would elevate it more in the coming weeks." 

He adds that he has not seen anything public from the McCain side, "but I do understand that his staff is working on the issues."



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