In September of 2016, on a Hofstra University debate stage, journalist Lester Holt asked presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump how they’d improve American cybersecurity. When it came Trump’s turn to answer, he let loose a torrent of barely connected ideas about “the cyber.” The stream of consciousness started with how many admirals had endorsed him, reiterated his long-running theme that no one could prove Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee, noted cryptically that “we came in with an internet, we came up with the internet,” touched on ISIS “beating us at our own game,” and finally ended with these words:
“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 do-able. But I will say, we are not doing the job we should be doing.”
In that moment, it became clear to cybersecurity professionals around the world that, should this man obtain the most powerful office in America, the next several years of politics were going to be very painful to listen to.
Indeed, while Trump has gained a deserved reputation as the most dishonest president in American history on a multitude of topics, few have inspired as much disinformation from him as “the cyber.” And no other issue, perhaps, has provided the confluence of factors to produce facepalming Trumpisms at such a high rate: complexity, ignorance of technical issues, and blatant conflicts of interest.
As Trump’s term—and his Twitter feed—come to a close, these are the abysmal cybersecurity assertions and quotes that will resonate for years to come.