This week’s Democratic presidential contenders will debate each other in an attempt to connect with potential voters. The issues most likely to be discussed include healthcare, immigration, climate change, education, and the economy. While these topics are certainly important and demand significant consideration, we can’t help but wonder why cybersecurity is not a point of discussion for any of the Democratic candidates? 

Clearly, it is not a focus of the White House as we potentially face 2020 election security issues. Go figure….  But why not; the importance of cybersecurity at the local and national levels relates to the potential consequences should a virus engulf computer-based systems. The aftereffect negatively impacts the economy, communications, health and welfare, and of course opportunity. The fact our elections could be directed by digital forces should have been the blinking sign any political leader would need to signal “important issue.” But it isn’t and it apparently wasn’t. 

Understanding the Problem

Cybersecurity enables technology that fuels our businesses, critical infrastructure, and everyday operations. It is the combination of things that responsibly safeguarding our most critical assets; that often have a value desirable to others. Hence the increasing number of reported cyberattacks. 

Whereas, the government is working tirelessly to protect national networks and systems, local governments are being bombarded with ransomware attacks and many others that are just not reported. We’ve already witnessed large-scale data breaches. Foreign interferences, and nuclear tensions – all have a nexus to, and call for, hardening systems. So, what more is needed for our politicians to start talking about the real-time cybersecurity risks facing our country and solutions? There is no greater concern than digital security. But, why don’t the candidates think so….out loud? 

Despite introducing the STEM program into elementary schools, most children are unfamiliar with the depth of cybersecurity threats currently facing our country. We typically think about STEM training as a job creations practice for our youth and not one to assure future national security.

I believe the issue is rooted in the fact voters and campaign funders have not beat down legislative doors and therefore nothing happens. In fact, citizens haven’t demanding cyber legislation for privacy or even a safer internet filled with new protection mechanisms. Thus, candidates will remain mute on cybersecurity related planning until 

Let’s start saying the “C” Word

The 2020 Democratic presidential candidates will harp on the same issues that have drawn public attention for years. Ironically, the same issues also haven’t been solved in years. So why shouldn’t these hopeful prospects start talking about the “C” word? Given the cyber-physical challenges present in today’s shifting security landscape, it would make perfect sense to discuss the imminent dangers stemming from our expanding use of the Internet. 

Looking tech savvy should be attractive for young voters. Obama and Bernie’s use of the internet to reach and collect dollars appealed to young voters in the past. Why not take that a step further and talk about the security of those very same enabling technologies?

So, we know there will be future attacks. Consequently, if one of those candidates becomes President, the gauntlet called the internet may become their biggest headache. It is a fact that the growing number of cyberattacks and the cunning of hackers is maturing daily. The focus on cybersecurity is urgently needed to protect critical systems as well as give citizens a fighting chance. Therefore, a focus on cybersecurity now could also be self-serving. If a candidate thinks 9-11 attacks were back wait until they have to deal with a long-term power outage in a region.

Maybe candidates don’t debate digital security plans because the average education level of an American citizen is fourth grade (as reported in many studies). Don’t believe that these facts escape Presidential candidates and those in office. It is almost like if the candidates don’t think you care – they don’t care. 

What’s Important to Americans 

Could it be that our elected officials are catering their conversations and debates to the American people’s fears and desires rather than their needs? Yep!

Senator Harris has introduced ideas to provide dollars to municipalities for Information Technology security if she becomes President. Ms. Harris proclaims that she is “first to focus on what we need to do around digital forensics and cybersecurity.” To be fair, she has introduced or co-sponsored legislation to enhance punishments for economic espionage. She feels it is important to go after overseas offenders. But why not push it publicly now? 

Maybe all of the campaign tactics focus on connecting with the average voter who is primarily concerned about climate change, reducing the cost of education or receiving free healthcare? Should this be true, it highlights every candidate’s main priority, which is voter maximization and not leadership. 

Unfortunately, most people don’t know their digital data was exploited at the time a business or organization loses the data. When the information is discovered to have been compromised, the loss is not always attributable to the business or organization that lost it. So, people never have a chance to summon an emotional response. Thus, politicians escape the pressures of having to come with solutions to arguably the greatest issue we will face in the 21st century.

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