Russian meddling in the U.S. election certainly should make all Americans angry, no matter our political differences. Moving forward, it’s important to learn from it and incorporate these lessons throughout our personal, professional and political lives.
Despicable as it was to hack into Democratic National Committee computers and selectively leak information in a way that undercut the party’s candidate, such shenanigans couldn’t have been effective if the DNC had not engaged in embarrassing acts and stockpiled damaging data in its files.
Three key points to note about this:
• The DNC and, presumably, the Republican National Committee are guilty of trying to skew the presidential selection process in ways that support favorites already anointed behind the scenes. Many in the DNC believed Hillary Clinton was owed her party’s nomination by acclamation. They resented Bernie Sanders’ spirited opposition. To the extent they are capable of doing so, the national political committees must resolve to be honest brokers who provide a level playing field for all credible candidates. Citizen resentment about being force-fed political dynasties — in the form of the Clintons and Bushes — partly precipitated the Trump surprise.
• If the DNC was incapable of withstanding or resisting efforts by Clinton stalwarts to skew the selection process, it should at a minimum have been much smarter about protecting its inner workings. For would-be world leaders, they were blindingly stupid. Unlike the Watergate burglary that required physically entering an office and trying to steal papers, we live in an age when electronic information is spread throughout the world on computer servers, protected (and unprotected) in ways few of us understand. Nothing should ever be sent in an email or stored electronically that you would not want to have read aloud in a court deposition or news report. For ordinary citizens, the corresponding lesson is to zealously safeguard financial information, credit card numbers and passwords. Any time such data is exposed in an email or other unencrypted form, it is susceptible to being skimmed off and misused.
• Government and corporations owe an enormous responsibility to better protect electronic information. Our democracy, economy and security hang in the balance. Far more important than a physical fence along a peaceful international border, defending our electronic frontier ought to be at the forefront of the U.S. national agenda. If the world tips into chaos — as it has often done in the past — in today’s world it may be because a madman, tyrant or criminal enterprise deliberately or accidentally crashes the information systems on which we rely for so many vital services in modern life.
We’ve been delivered a stinging rebuke about sloppy data management, and it’s not a partisan issue, it affects us all. Let’s never allow it to be repeated.