During a short question-and-answer session in the Grand Ballroom of Mar-a-Lago prior to his annual New Year’s Eve party, Donald Trump was asked why he doubts U.S. intelligence agency charges that Russians were behind the cyberattack against the Democratic Party.
“I just want them to be sure, because it’s a pretty serious charge. […] I think it’s unfair if they don’t know, and I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove.
So it could be somebody else. I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of this situation.”
Writing for The Resurgent, former Navy contractor Steve Berman disagreed.
Once the hack evidence has been found, it’s not really that hard to prove (that there’s been a hack and what kind). As for connecting the person behind the keyboard, or “command and control” where the data is ultimately harvested, it’s a bit harder, but it helps when there are other examples of the same address being used in the wild.
As I’ve touched on before, our cyber spies probably know a whole lot more than will ever be told. It’s far more important to them to protect sources and methods than to provide a legal case against these hackers.
Trump also warned that “no computer is safe.”
“If you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier–the old fashioned way. Because I’ll tell you what, no computer is safe. I don’t care what they say.”
Berman agreed, citing comments from the head of the FBI Cyber Division in Pittsburgh.
“Really, the only safe computer is one that’s turned off and unplugged from the Internet, and even that may not be safe,” [J. Keith] Mularski told an audience at Carnegie Mellon University on Monday evening as he and co-panelists Nicolas Christin, an information systems security expert in CMU’s Cylab, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review investigative reporter Andrew Conte debated the pros and cons of an increasingly wired world.
Incidentally, John McAfee, founder of the McAfee computer antivirus software company, is convinced that it wasn’t the Russians, at all–in effect, agreeing with Trump.Image Credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images
McAfee explained that hackers can fake their location, their language, and any telltale markers that could lead back to them.
“If it looks like the Russians did it, then I can guarantee you it was not the Russians.
If I was the Chinese and I wanted to make it look like the Russians did it, I would use Russian language within the code, I would use Russian techniques of breaking into the organization,” McAfee said, adding that, in the end, “there simply is no way to assign a source for any attack.”
As for what Trump knows that “other people don’t know,” he said, “you’ll find out on Tuesday or Wednesday.”