The first face-to-face debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had more talk about beauty pageant winners and where baby Obama popped out than a number of financial issues Americans need answers on.
While moderator Lester Holt promised one of the central topics would be “achieving prosperity,” there was zero discussion of health care costs, housing, student loan debt, or retirement. You might expect the boring, middle-aged white VP candidates to hash out the policy details, but that sure didn’t happen. Then, the second debate: locker room talk, foreign policy, lots of personal attacks.
That’s not to say they ignored the economy entirely. Clinton briefly pledged to raise the minimum wage, expand paid family leave, bolster Obamacare, and push for corporate profit-sharing. Trump pledged to lower taxes on businesses, replace Obamacare, and renegotiate trade deals. And both candidates talked up job creation — before endlessly talking down, and over, each other.
They also talked about an issue you might not immediately recognize as a financial one: cybersecurity. And, what do you know? It’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month.
Americans want federal protections for their financial data
Identity theft protection company LifeLock surveyed more than 2,000 Americans before the first presidential debate. It found 58 percent of Americans feel the presidential candidates are not paying enough attention to cybersecurity.
LifeLock also found data breaches are a bigger concern among older Americans than millennials. The cynical take is that older people don’t understand computers; the fairer one is that they have more to lose in a breach. Many millennials probably wouldn’t mind having their student loan accounts hacked too terribly much. Other findings:
- More Americans worry about suffering a data breach (39 percent) than Zika virus (8 percent)
- 3 in 5 are worried about foreign government-sponsored cyberattacks
- 70 percent think the federal government should be responsible for protecting their personal information
- More than half say we need to spend more money on cybersecurity, more than feel the defense budget is too small
- Virtually everyone (96 percent) agrees retailers and banks need to do better protecting our data
- But nearly as many (92 percent) agree the responsibility is ultimately ours
There are a lot of issues to unpack — for instance, there are already laws to protect consumers from credit card fraud, although debit cards are treated a little differently. But what if the fraud goes unnoticed? If nobody (including you) is aware of fraudulent charges, you’re still footing the bill for them.
There’s also the issue where data stolen in breaches is used indirectly to rip you off. If unencrypted passwords are stolen, for instance, and you make the grave mistake of using the same password for an account tied to your money, it’s only a matter of time. You may not even make the connection between the breach and the theft.
What the candidates said about cybersecurity
Given these issues, you would expect the candidates to have a comprehensive and succinct platform for dealing with fraud — or at least a clear promise to develop one. Here’s what we actually got, with the parts where they kinda, sorta, maybe hint at actually doing something in bold.
From Clinton, who knows a thing or two about suffering data breaches…
Well, I think cyber security, cyber warfare will be one of the biggest challenges facing the next president, because clearly we’re facing at this point two different kinds of adversaries. There are the independent hacking groups that do it mostly for commercial reasons to try to steal information that they can use to make money.
But increasingly, we are seeing cyber attacks coming from states, organs of states. The most recent and troubling of these has been Russia. There’s no doubt now that Russia has used cyber attacks against all kinds of organizations in our country, and I am deeply concerned about this. I know Donald’s very praiseworthy of Vladimir Putin, but Putin is playing a really tough, long game here. And one of the things he’s done is to let loose cyber attackers to hack into government files, to hack into personal files, hack into the Democratic National Committee. And we recently have learned that, you know, that this is one of their preferred methods of trying to wreak havoc and collect information. We need to make it very clear — whether it’s Russia, China, Iran or anybody else — the United States has much greater capacity. And we are not going to sit idly by and permit state actors to go after our information, our private-sector information or our public-sector information.
And we’re going to have to make it clear that we don’t want to use the kinds of tools that we have. We don’t want to engage in a different kind of warfare. But we will defend the citizens of this country.
And the Russians need to understand that. I think they’ve been treating it as almost a probing, how far would we go, how much would we do. And that’s why I was so — I was so shocked when Donald publicly invited Putin to hack into Americans. That is just unacceptable. It’s one of the reasons why 50 national security officials who served in Republican information — in administrations — have said that Donald is unfit to be the commander- in-chief. It’s comments like that really worry people who understand the threats that we face.
At that point the moderator cut her off for going over time. Presumably she was just getting past the tough talk and finger pointing to the solutions part. And here’s Trump, who shrugs at Russia and points as ISIS without offering any more insight…
As far as the cyber, I agree to parts of what Secretary Clinton said. We should be better than anybody else, and perhaps we’re not. I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?
You don’t know who broke in to DNC.
But what did we learn with DNC? We learned that Bernie Sanders was taken advantage of by your people, by Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Look what happened to her. But Bernie Sanders was taken advantage of. That’s what we learned.
Now, whether that was Russia, whether that was China, whether it was another country, we don’t know, because the truth is, under President Obama we’ve lost control of things that we used to have control over.
We came in with the Internet, we came up with the Internet, and I think Secretary Clinton and myself would agree very much, when you look at what ISIS is doing with the Internet, they’re beating us at our own game. ISIS.
So we have to get very, very tough on cyber and cyber warfare. It is — it is a huge problem. I have a son. He’s 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers, it’s unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe it’s hardly doable.
But I will say, we are not doing the job we should be doing. But that’s true throughout our whole governmental society. We have so many things that we have to do better, Lester, and certainly cyber is one of them.
Presumably Trump will be appointing his 10-year-old son Barron as czar of “the cyber” to protect us from the 400-pound bad men and/or ISIS.
Yahoo! Finance editor Rob Regoraro took a look at some of the concrete cybersecurity issues we deserve to see our candidates discussing. The big ones include built-in encryption and a reform of the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which like many federal laws has become hopelessly outdated in the face of intense lobbying and partisan dysfunction. We should also take a hard look at our tendency to keep known security flaws to ourselves (so we can use them to hack other countries) instead of fixing them.
Cybersecurity may become a bigger issue real fast
Whether the candidates talk about cybersecurity (or other financial issues) any further before Election Day, we’ll almost certainly be discussing it after.
Trump has made “rigged election” a common refrain, while Clinton has suggested Russian hackers are trying to influence the election in Trump’s favor. (Trump, of course, played into this earlier in the campaign by welcoming Russian hackers to go after Clinton’s emails.)
Multiple cybersecurity experts, including Harvard lecturer Bruce Schneier and Princeton professor Andrew Appel, suggest election machines across the country have vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit — not just by changing voting tallies, but by deleting voter records. CBS News reported late last month that election databases in at least 10 states have been cased or attacked already.
The final debate, on Wednesday, Oct. 19, is supposed to spend some time on the economy and (national) debt. We sure hope so. A Pew Research Center survey of what voters want to hear most about in the debates shows the most important topics after terrorism are economic growth, the national budget, and health care. So far we haven’t gotten much detail on any of them.