On January 12th, Jeb Bush published an article in Business Insider titled “Here’s my plan to address the monumental threat of cyber attacks.” Put aside your partisan hat for a moment. This is the first time I can recall a prominent presidential candidate making information security such a prominent part of a campaign’s policy focus.
I am sure Bush supporters will point out that this is not quite new. He posted short articles on cybersecurity in Medium back in June and September. However, the recent moves by his campaign to bring greater emphasis to the topic makes it seem like more than just another position held by a candidate. There is unmistakable emphasis on the topic that emerged again during the most recent debate.
How did we get here?
This may be the logical culmination of the cybersecurity discussions that started in the first Republican presidential primary debates in Cleveland. In the early debate among the so-called second-tier candidates at the time, Wired reported that Carly Fiorina talked about the need for industry to make it easier for “security agencies to ‘connect the dots’ around potential risks,” by tearing down “cyberwalls.” Later that evening in the debate among the top-tier candidates, Wired reported Senator Ted Cruz suggested cyber attacks allegedly carried out by Russia and China “amounted to acts of cyberwar.”
However, most of the discussion was based in the debate about citizen privacy versus the surveillance needs of law enforcement. Wired concluded the article by saying, “No matter where the candidates stood, one thing was clear: cyber security is the new national security.”
The first airing of cybersecurity in the Democrat presidential debates came in October. Politico reported that former Virginia Senator – and former 2016 presidential candidate – Jim Webb said, “Our greatest day-to-day threat is cyber warfare against this country.” It did not come up in the most recent debate among Democrats.
Eric Chabrow of ISMG wrote in December in Bank Info Security that cybersecurity briefly took center stage again in December Republican debate. This time Donald Trump’s comments suggesting closing the Internet in Syria received the most coverage, but Governor John Kasich of Ohio also stated a position that data encryption undermines the efforts of law enforcement.
Bush Doubles Down on Cybersecurity
In the January 15th Republican presidential debate, the Washington Examiner reported that, “Bush tackles encryption, cybersecurity in debate.” The article goes on to state, “The sixth Republican presidential debate nearly ended without any reference to cybersecurity issues, until former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made an 11th-hour interjection.”
It’s fair to say cybersecurity isn’t a focal point for candidates in either party other than Governor Bush. You can find the topic through a search on Carly Fiona’s website, but it is not accessible through the issues menu. By contrast, Bush has cybersecurity in his campaign’s main issues navigation menu. Earlier this month his website even listed cybersecurity before Defense.
A more recent update changed the website navigation style, but cybersecurity is still prominent.
Forget Politics for the Moment – It’s a Reflection of Country’s Mood
This is not about politics or which party has a better plan for cybersecurity policy. Presidential campaigns rarely blaze new trails. They are typically designed to reflect the national mood. We have moved beyond the abstract privacy concerns raised by Edward Snowden. Everyday citizens have felt personal impact by breaches at Target, JP Morgan, Anthem, OPM and many others.
The cybersecurity industry has historically toiled in obscurity. Regardless of what happens to Governor Bush’s campaign you can see how our work is becoming higher profile and will invariably face heightened scrutiny. Get ready for a new era of cybersecurity.
By Scott Raspa