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Trump decides to act on cyber attacks

UNITED States President-elect Donald Trump found himself in a truly difficult position when reports came out that Russian hackers, on orders of President Vladimir Putin, interfered in the recent US presidential election. They allegedly broke into the files of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Russian teams then allegedly leaked the information, some of it embarrassing, through Wikileaks and mobilized an army of paid trolls who deluged US voters on social media with posts and comments designed to hurt Clinton and help Trump.

Trump’s immediate reaction was to call the report a “political witch hunt” – an understandable position, lest he cast doubt on his own election. But he met with the top four US intelligence officials. At the end of the meeting in New York, he said: “While Russia, China, other countries, other outside groups and people are constantly trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our government institutions, businesses, and organizations, including the Democratic National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”

Trump, however, did not totally reject the findings of the four organizations – the Directorate of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the National Security Agency (NSA). After the meeting, he said that as soon as he assumes office on January 20, he will form his own team and give it 90 days to come up with a plan to halt cyber attacks on the US.

This is not the first time the US has suffered from a cyber attack. In 2015, the records of 18 million federal employees were exposed when hackers got into the files of the US Office of Personnel Management. The US military now has its own “cyber mission force” to support its operations around the world. Similar units working in cyberspace are reported active in China, North Korea, and in private organizations.

We too have our own problems with hackers in the Philippines. The Commission on Elections today is under investigation on the hacking of its website last March, two months before the May election, for his alleged inaction, the Comelec chairman has been recommended for prosecution.

The automation of Philippine elections itself has long been opposed by some quarters who question the lack of transparency in a system where machines – which can be programmed – do the counting, the canvassing, and the transmission of election returns. The cyberworld is indeed a big question mark, with seemingly solid protective walls set up by computer experts apparently vulnerable to the expertise of other experts.

US President-elect Trump will launch his administration’s own program to meet the challenge of the Russian hacking of the US elections. Our own cyber problem in the Philippines may not be as crucial as that of the US but our own government should be taking steps in this direction on this worldwide problem of cyber attacks and security.