Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump says the United States is “obsolete” in cybersecurity, suggesting the country is being “toyed with” by adversaries from China, Russia and elsewhere.
“First off, we’re so obsolete in cyber. We’re the ones that sort of were very much involved with the creation, but we’re so obsolete,” Trump said in a recent interview with The New York Times. (The paper released a transcript over the weekend.)
In the interview, Trump was critical of the U.S. military’s cyber capabilities, claiming the Defense Department and the military are “going backwards” in cyber while “other countries are moving forward at a much more rapid pace.”
“We are frankly not being led very well in terms of the protection of this country,” Trump said.
Trump’s comments fly in the face of opinions of both U.S. military leaders, who are beefing up their cyber forces, and leading American cybersecurity firms, who believe the U.S. is outhacking Russia and China.
U.S. Cyber Command, the Pentagon’s cyber arm, is planning to hire an additional 3,000-plus cyber experts through 2018, while the president’s proposed budget for next year calls for upping information security spending by 35 percent to $19 billion.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Trump’s views on American cyber posture contradict those held by President Obama, who weighed in on the issue in September.
“Although the Chinese and Russians are close, we’re still the best at this,” Obama said. “And if we wanted to go on offense, a whole bunch of countries would have some significant problems” that America would rather not inflict on the Internet.
The real estate mogul rarely touches on technology in his stump speeches or interviews, but when he does, it's not without controversy.
In December, he told South Carolinians the U.S. should shut down the Internet to combat ISIS, demonstrating, critics say, a lack of knowledge about what the Internet actually is or how it works. More recently, Trump in February called for the public to boycott Apple after it refused to break into the phone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. The FBI later backed off its legal push to make Apple unlock the phone.