Vote Cyber: Clinton Vs. Trump on World War III

clinton trump debate
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton prepare to take their places on the stage for their first debate at Hofstra University.
Credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

How many people will vote Cyber on Election Day? Depends on the next presidential debate.

Wow. Was that a debate, or a rank-out contest? Democrats vs. Republicans? Ew.

Enter the 'Cyber Party'. Last September, cybersecurity icon John McAfee announced his White House run on the so-called Cyber Party ticket -- a new political party he claimed to be founding. The party never actually formed and McAfee went on to run as a Libertarian candidate.

While it's too late for a new political party to officially form ahead of Election Day (Nov. 8), Fox News Channel's Chris Wallace -- moderator of the third presidential debate (Fox News Channel, Oct. 19 at 9 pm EST) can use the Cyber Party moniker to address U.S. voters on the topics of cybercrime and cyber defense.

World War III is underway, and its cyber, according to a recent report from Cybersecurity Ventures, which corroborates the assertion with ​opinions from ​several industry experts. In his New York Times bestselling investigation, Ted Koppel reveals that a major cyberattack on America’s power grid is not only possible but likely, that it would be devastating, and that the United States is shockingly unprepared. (Disclaimer: Steve Morgan is founder and CEO of Cybersecurity Ventures.)

The White House issued an Executive Order in April 2015, in which President Obama stated “The increasing prevalence and severity of malicious cyber-enabled activities originating from, or directed by persons located, in whole or in substantial part, outside the United States constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with this threat.”

​President Obama stopped short of declaring the U.S. was at "war", cyber-war that is. Perhaps the American voters would like to hear where Clinton and Trump stand on the issue. "If you are elected President, will you declare that the U.S. is at cyber-war -- Yes or No?". That may be a good question for Wallace to launch the candidates into serious debate. And, depending on how Clinton and Trump respond - it may give one or both of them an opportunity to re-draw the lines around U.S. voters and which parties some of them belong to.

If voters buy into the notion that America is at major risk of cyberattacks -- and the attacks can harm not only computers but people, places, and things including planes, railways, and consumer bank accounts -- then maybe they'll vote cyber... for the candidate they believe would be the most qualified chief of cyber defense.

Voters can be further pushed into voting cyber if human lives are at risk.

The Cybersecurity Ventures report states that if the cyber evildoers have their way, lives will be lost. Economies will be shaken. Cars and planes will crash. Nations will clash. Power grids will go down. Businesses will go under. Reputations will be ruined. Government secrets will be exposed. Billions of personal identities will be stolen. Trillions of dollars will be taken. Zetabytes of data will be damaged.

“Cyberwarfare has crossed from the digital world into our physical realm, and there is a very real potential cybercrime will lead to the loss of human life” says Robert Herjavec, Founder & CEO of Herjavec Group, a leading global information security advisory firm. “A breach of our power grids, of our dams, or of air traffic control mechanisms, could have catastrophic effects that are felt far beyond the financial and reputational impacts of a corporate attack,” adds Herjavec.

Last November, CNBC asked "Why aren't presidential candidates talking about cybersecurity?" Apparently the answer was that both the candidates and the media are simply not up to snuff when it comes to such a complex topic -- and that hasn't changed much since then.

[ HACKING THE ELECTION: CSO's package of stories examining if the election can be hacked ]

John McAfee is back to work full-time in the cyber field now, but he left the McAfee 16 Cyber Security Doctrine behind. The doctrine can be an excellent frame of reference for a less than savvy cyber moderator, and the candidates. It opens by stating what McAfee and others perceive to be the greatest threat to the U.S. - China:

"We are in a cyber war with China, and have been for more than five years. The Chinese attacks on Homeland Security, the Department of Defense and the FBI went nearly undetected and the massive attack against the Office of Personnel Management was ongoing for two years before it was even noticed."

McAfee's Doctrine is one of many resources the debaters can refer to. In his ground-breaking book ‘The Hacked World Order’ — author Adam Segal explained cyberspace is a global battlefield, writing “It was in 2012 that nation-states around the world visibly reasserted their control over the flow of data and information in search of power, wealth, and influence… The conflict in cyberspace will only become more belligerent, the stakes more consequential… We will all be caught in the fallout as the great powers, and many of the lesser ones, attack, surveil, influence, steal from, and trade with each other.”

Democratic and Republican voters -- as well as Libertarians and independents -- have probably decided on or leaning heavily towards one of the candidates at this point. Vote Cyber -- would that message resonate with voters? Is that message powerful enough to move voters into thinking of themselves as members of the Cyber Party? If yes, then millions of swing voters could be up for grabs -- and potentially even decide the election.

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