International cooperation needed to ensure cybersecurity

Washington should reveal evidence to back its assertion that Russia was behind the hacking that interfered with the US presidential election

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 January, 2017, 2:36am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 January, 2017, 3:05am

Donald Trump has finally accepted intelligence assessments that Russia engaged in cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee, according to senior aide Reince Priebus, but it is not clear whether the US president-elect agreed they were directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin or intended to influence the American presidential election. This follows a briefing by intelligence chiefs. A public version of their assessment did not provide any evidence and concluded that vote tallies were not affected. Perhaps Trump will clarify things at a press conference expected today.

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The president-elect, a self-proclaimed admirer of Putin, had maintained his scepticism even as outgoing President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian intelligence operatives in retaliation for the cyberattacks. In anticipation of a warmer relationship with Washington once Trump takes office, Putin has refrained from tit-for-tat expulsions. As a result, in the absence of hard evidence of a Russian link to leaked emails from senior staffers of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Putin is seen as having emerged on top in his latest exchange with his country’s chief adversary.

That should not be the end of the matter. The US, after all, claims to have evidence of interference in the most important democratic process of the world’s most powerful nation – more than adequate grounds for expulsions. To be sure, the US does not have clean hands when it comes to interfering in other countries and using the internet to advance its objectives.

But there is a need to clear the air if a measure of trust is to be restored. Priebus may have previously erred in dismissing consensus on Moscow’s culpability, but he is right to say the CIA, FBI and national intelligence directors “should be straight with the American people and come out [with the evidence]”.

Tough on Putin, soft on Trump? Republicans walk a tightrope over Russian hacking

Then Germany and France, among other European nations, will know what cyber intrusions they may expect in elections due this year. The affair shows the need for rigorous and relentless cybersecurity, and international cooperation to secure it.