The way we talk about cybersecurity is a mess. Even as Russian hackers and ransomware attacks continue to make headlines, the media cover can’t seem to get past a level of vagueness that invites readers to throw their hands up in frustration. The payback: learned helplessness that stops us from dealing with the problem.
President-elect Donald J. Trump’s erratic public statements — last summer’s invitation to Russia to hack Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, last fall’s glib debate comments about “the cyber” and his suggestion at last week’s press conference that it was the Democratic National Committee’s fault for getting hacked — haven’t helped.
But this isn’t just Trump’s fault. Mass-media coverage continues to leave readers under-informed about what happened, why and what they should do when a new cyber attack is uncovered.
Sometimes it’s just wrong. The Washington Post first trumpeted a scoop that Russian hackers had breached a Vermont electric utility’s systems, then rushed to correct the story, reporting that Russians weren’t involved and there might not have been any hacking.
All of this can leave readers and listeners feeling confused, disempowered or worse.
We’re not all doomed
In his recent role as cybersecurity commentator, Trump told reporters at a New Year’s Eve party at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida thatThe Washington Post