Robert O’Brien: Hillary Clinton best placed for cyber security battle

Picture: Getty
Picture: Getty
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‘Emailgate’ ensures that Hillary Clinton has a much greater insight into cyber security than Donald Trump.

Mrs Clinton now has real world experience of the potential for damage resulting from a cyber security breach and will be much more aware of pitfalls to avoid.

There is no doubt that the tough lessons sorely paid for through her email activity, have helped elevate Mrs Clinton into a stronger position to lead in any cyber war. Mr Trump does not elicit anywhere near as much confidence.

As someone who works daily with organisations to improve cyber security awareness, I have found that every organisation finds this issue challenging. Two of the most challenging groups of users are executives and senior managers. The people that run governments and lead them are generally not any different.

Recent media reports suggest that neither of the front-running US presidential candidates are on top of their games when it comes to cyber security know-how. What interests me and others in the information security industry is how the candidates would assist with threats posed by cyber risks.

On first pass, Mrs Clinton does not rate well given her contravention of good email practice. However, she is not alone in what she did. In sending government emails from a secure email environment to her own personal email account, she is guilty of the most popular cyber security failure: bypassing solid security controls for the purposes of expediency. The expediency came at a cost when her actions were uncovered.

I was told once that there are two types of NASCAR driver: those who have hit the wall and those that have yet to hit the wall. This also holds true for those people who have experienced a cyber-security incident and those people who have not yet experienced an incident. The point is that most of us will hit a cyber security wall at some time and we will, or at least should, learn from it. From a cyber-security point of view, Hillary Clinton will have well and truly learnt her lessons in cyber security and privacy. I am sure her media team has briefed her on handling questions on email security from every possible angle. This is a good thing for the rest of us – should she win.

Mr Trump, on the other hand, has not yet hit the wall. He has referred to cyber security as ‘the cyber’ and used his 10-year-old son as a subject matter expert when describing how he would tackle ‘the cyber’ problem. He referred to cyber security as “very, very tough” and “hardly doable” during a recent debate. This is not a good thing for the rest of us – should he win.

The only way to gauge the cyber security problem is through experience; Mrs Clinton and the Democratic Party already have a head start in that regard. How could Mr Trump fight a cyber-war? I would rather he not gain that experience whilst in office.

The explosion of this story may well have serious repercussions for the Clinton campaign. The ‘unprecedented move’ by the FBI to announce a new line of investigation into Mrs Clinton’s email activity days before the election may also raise questions in light of Justice Department rules.

However, regardless of who wins the presidency and the outcome of the continuing fallout, ‘Emailgate’ has certainly helped to highlight just how poor cyber security awareness actually is.

• Robert O’Brien is a Cyber Security Expert and CEO at MetaCompliance