Cybersecurity and freedom of speech under President Trump

If the Pentagon can't patch in eight months, can the nation's vulnerabilities be reviewed in 60 days? Like cybersecurity, freedom of speech is also 'very sacred,' but Reuters advised reporters covering Trump to be prepared as if it were an authoritarian regime.

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George Hodan (CC0)

While President Donald Trump decided not to sign an executive order on cybersecurity (pdf), which would have required a review of the nation’s cyber vulnerabilities to be done in a mere 60 days, he told reporters, “I will hold my cabinet secretaries and agency heads accountable, totally accountable for the cybersecurity of their organization.”

8 months later, vulnerable Pentagon servers still not patched

60 days would be crazy-fast, considering the Pentagon has known it is running vulnerable servers for more than eight months and yet still has not implemented fixes. The misconfigured servers were discovered by security researcher Dan Tentler, founder of the Phobos Group. He told ZDNet, “It's very likely that these servers are being exploited in the wild.”

Although Tentler did report the Department of Defense cybersecurity issue to HackerOne, which runs the Hack the Pentagon (pdf) bug bounty program, the flawed servers were considered to be “out of the scope” of what is allowed to be tested. Tentler pointed out that Russia and China don’t care what the acceptable probing guidelines are; “you can bet they’re scanning those networks.”

“There were hosts that were discovered that had serious technical misconfiguration problems that could be easily abused by an attacker inside or outside of the country, who could want to implicate the US as culprits in hacking attacks if they so desire,” Tentler told ZDNet’s Zack Whittaker. “The flaw could allow politically motivated attacks that could implicate the US.”

If the Pentagon can't patch after more than eight months, can President Trump seriously believe all the nation's cyber vulnerabilities could be reviewed in 60 days? After he decided not to sign the cybersecurity executive order as was originally planned, he said, “We must protect federal networks and data. We operate these networks on behalf of the American people, and they are very important and very sacred.”

Cybersecurity is more important than some people can comprehend – it touches everything these days, but another “very sacred” thing to Americans that needs to be protected is freedom of speech.

Reuters braces reporters covering Trump for bumpy ride

There shouldn’t be a chilling effect on free speech because of any president. The news needs to continue to be the news, not news like that which is reported from state-owned news outlets in authoritarian regimes. Reuters pointed out, “It’s not every day that a U.S. president calls journalists ‘among the most dishonest human beings on earth’ or that his chief strategist dubs the media ‘the opposition party’.”

Reuters is so concerned that its Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler reminded his staff that they manage to pump out the news in other locations where “the media is unwelcome and frequently under attack” such as “Turkey, the Philippines, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Thailand, China, Zimbabwe, and Russia, nations in which we sometimes encounter some combination of censorship, legal prosecution, visa denials, and even physical threats to our journalists.”

White House freezes out CNN

If you don’t think the White House is hostile to news outlets not agreeing with its agenda, look no further than CNN which is currently being “punished.” Politico reported that the Trump administration has iced out CNN. A White House official confirmed the ban, saying it is not necessarily permanent. “We’re sending surrogates to places where we think it makes sense to promote our agenda.”

Colbert and Stewart tag-team against Trump

As former Daily Show host Jon Stewart said on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, trying to cover Trump is “exhausting.” Stewart added, “The presidency is supposed to age the president, not the public.” The comedians discussed securing the border with the Great Wall of China, abuse of power and America’s new official language.

Stewart said, “We have never faced this before – purposeful, vindictive chaos.” Regarding Trump’s presidency, Stewart said, “If we do not allow Donald Trump to exhaust our fight – and somehow come through this presidency calamity-less and constitutionally, partially intact,” then Trump “will have demonstrated the greatness of America” – just not the way Trump thought he would.

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