Last Thursday, I wrote a news article
for the SC website covering a speech on cybersecurity that Sen. Barack Obama delivered at Purdue University.
The point of the reporting was to acknowledge that a presidential candidate had an understanding of cybersecurity issues. The challenge was to not turn the piece into a testimonial.
Trying to retain a sense of fairness and balance proved difficult and, fortunately for me, astute online editor Chuck Miller was able to take my story and hack it to pieces in order to remove a tone of preferential treatment that I hadn’t quite masked.
But the fact is, irrespective of what you think about the two candidates’ positions on other issues, when it comes to cybersecurity, preferring Obama is a no-brainer.
Obama not only has an awareness of cybersecurity, but offers proposals and a strategy that would not only protect the nation’s computer networks, but also strengthen science and computer education programs.
Cybersecurity would be made a top priority in his administration, he said.
This is a stark contrast to the awareness, or lack of awareness, shown by his opponent in the presidential contest, Sen. John McCain. There is nothing on McCain’s website that addresses cybersecurity, and he has hardly addressed the issue.
In fact, last week, Richard Clarke, a partner at Good Harbor Consulting, who has served the last three presidents as a senior White House adviser, told SCMagazineUS.com: “We couldn't find that McCain has any position on cybersecurity. They just taught him how to ‘watch the Drudge Report.’ How can you expect a guy who has never used a PC to understand cybersecurity?”
Eugene Spafford, executive director of Purdue University’s CERIAS (Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security), in response to Obama’s Purdue speech (and a discussion following), commented on CERIAS’s blog that, “Sen. Obama was engaged, attentive and several of his comments and questions displayed more than a superficial knowledge of the material in each area. Given our current president referring to ‘the Internets’ and Sen. McCain cheerfully admitting he doesn’t know how to use a computer, it was refreshing and hopeful that Sen. Obama knows what terms such as ‘fission’ and ‘phishing’ mean. And he can correctly pronounce ‘nuclear’! His comments didn’t appear to be rehearsed — I think he really does ‘get it.’”
Regarding McCain’s take on cybersecurity, after praising his service to the nation, Spafford said McCain is “a generation out of date on current technology and important related issues.”
Despite his unfamiliarity with computers and the internet, an argument could be made that Sen. McCain's stance on national security matters could lead to more money being budgeted for cybersecurity under his administration.
But I still prefer Sen. Obama's rationale in approaching the subject as an advancing of the technology and a means to "coordinate efforts across the federal government," not just as a matter of military readiness, as Sen. McCain claims.