President-elect Donald Trump must divorce his being allergic to the suggestion that Russian hackers tried to help him win the election from the need to respond to intelligence agency evidence of cyber attacks on this nation.
While Trump's assertion that any computer can be compromised is true, his joke at a New Year's Eve party that "if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier" falls flat considering the gravity of the subject.
Americans use the internet for everything from personal finances to sharing family photos. Businesses and governments at every level have sensitive information rambling around in cyberspace where it could compromise national security or cause financial ruin.
Given that reality, it's hard to agree with Trump's pick of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani as his cyber security advisor. The choice, like Trump's joke, suggests he doesn't really care about hacking. Giuliani's own cyber life was rapidly picked apart by the techie news site Gizmodo.com, which reported that his company's website suffers from flaws that have doomed other businesses that use outdated security software.
Giuliani mouthed the right words when he agreed that the nation is vulnerable to internet attacks, but his own company's vulnerabilities show he doesn't know what to do about it. Trump should find someone who understands cyber security instead of rewarding a campaign supporter who isn't capable of doing this job.
Instead of wildly speculating that "somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds" may have hacked the Democratic Party's servers, Trump must take safeguarding the nation from cyber attacks seriously.
He needs to bolster Department of Homeland Security efforts to protect the U.S. electrical grid and other critical infrastructure. DHS and the FBI began a nationwide program to warn U.S. utilities of the potential for hacking after a Dec. 23 cyber attack on Ukraine's electrical grid, which was likely carried out by Russian hackers.
Trump finally admitted Wednesday that Russia was behind the hacking of the Democrats' email servers. But he continued to criticize U.S. intelligence agencies, accusing them of leaking information from his classified briefings, including unsubstantiated reports that Russia has collected compromising personal and financial information about him.
Attempts to downplay evidence that Russia tried to influence the presidential election make Trump look self-serving. This isn't just about him. He must put aside personal considerations and take appropriate action whenever national security is at stake. That includes maintaining the economic sanctions imposed by President Obama to punish the Russians.
Cyber attacks can't be waved away with jokes and simplistic answers. Just as it is when the enemy is using bombs and bullets, the lives of Americans must be protected.