There’s a popular Mandarin (or is it Cantonese?) flavor profile that came to mind while I was drafting notes about this week’s piece. It is truly both sweet and sour to report about one point of social order that enjoys nearly universal favor when it comes to voters’ expectations in the upcoming primary elections: cybercrime. That’s sweet, at least to me, because of its universal appeal as a topic of policy for these potential, future leaders of Kentucky and America.
In this political climate of separation between reds and blues, or conservatives and liberals, or whatever pole and whatever’s opposite pole, it’s heartening even that we can all agree on the import of investing in defenses to thwart cybercrimes.
In August, the think tank Third Way asked thousands of primary voters, “How important do you think it is for the next president to make reducing cybercrime a top priority?” Ninety-eight percent of respondents agreed that it is a matter of at least some criticality, with half ticking the highest box of “very important.”
I suppose I’m being too emotional about the sweetness of its crossing the aisle. Who, for example, would disagree with the position that eradicating murder in the streets, or improving Americans’ individual economic positions might be wise politicking? I’ll take anything that looks like common ground, though. The sourness, maybe obviously, comes from the essence of the topic that’s enjoying impartial attention. Cybercrime is indeed a tasteless business, and one that’s been estimated to cost trillions of annual dollars from its waste, criminal consequences, and missed opportunities. Even if you believe that’s an inflated number, and I’m skeptical myself, it impresses a real connection between economic health and computer crimes.
Another meaningful upshot of the poll and its report is that it’s not only our political differences that fall by the wayside when thinking about the government’s duty to defend against these bad actors. With such a common response it also reflects that all genders are concerned; people of all voting ages agree on it; there’s racial harmony at play as well. Truth be told, there were some subtle differences in the various levels of concern by all those demographic groups. Younger respondents weren’t as zealous for protection as AARP members. Nonetheless, the “Kum ba ya” spirit seems alive in the poll’s results, and that’s something too much lacking during recent years.
I must admit that I’m not too Gung Ho! about the 2020 elections. Every four years we get the opportunity to reframe, improve, and grow the goodness of our great nation. It should be a time of hope and celebration even if “your” candidate has served their allotted terms, or loses in one of the races, or simply drops their political ambitions. Despite the obvious election interference that we endured in 2016, thanks in no small part to cybercrime, and that in 2020 will again wield its power, next year should reinforce how special and globally meaningful Americans and the democratic process are. By the way, it’s not me predicting more interference. Some say it was in jest, but Vladimir Putin last week answered the question of whether that will happen in 2020 with, “I'll tell you a secret: Yes, we'll definitely do it. Just don't tell anyone.” Not funny, Vlad. Instead of an aura of privilege and force behind a representative democracy, what has me somewhat blasé about the election season is all the noise muddying up the otherwise patriotic signals.
Barely a month after Fancy Farm and we’ve already begun seeing television ads for 2020 races. Mudslinging isn’t new, and some reports contend it’s diminishing as a strategy. We’ll see. Polls, such as this cybercrime variant are blossoming all around. And, we’re still reeling from the 2016 election’s complexities, mostly related to unethical if not criminal efforts from abroad that threaten our democracy. These and other tactics represent the noise, in my mind. It takes a strong will, and one that’s informed, to filter away the noise and hear the signal. Hopefully, one audible signal from candidates of every stripe will be that the costly and pervasive effects of cybercrimes will be top-of-mind for new administrations, both local and national. The candidates who are savvy enough to understand even basic problems resulting from computer crimes, apparently, have the attention of at least 98% of the voters.
Ed is a professor of cybersecurity, an attorney, and a trained ethicist. Reach him at email@example.com.