Ben Carson’s Cybersecurity Plan Is Terrible. But At Least He Has One.

January 28, 2016

Josephine Wolff

It’s old news by now that Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson—despite his medical degree—has a tenuous relationship with science. So I didn’t exactly have great expectations for his campaign’s cybersecurity plan, modestly titled “Prescription for Winning the 21st Century Cyberspace Race.” To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a dedicated cybersecurity plan at all, much less an op-ed dedicated to the topic by Carson in Re/code this week.

The op-ed makes several not-very-interesting, not-very-original points: that our society is very dependent on computers, that a hypothetical large-scale attack on the power grid would be devastating, that cybersecurity breaches can have very high costs. (And also that no one has any idea what those costs really are—Carson cites the cost of identity theft as being “anywhere from $25 billion to $50 billion annually.” There are also, of course, identity theft cost estimates out there in the $5 billion and $10 billion range. Take your pick.

All of this would be perfectly standard and even expected if Carson were selling a cybersecurity product or consulting service. Instead, he’s selling a cybersecurity policy plan—and that alone is pretty unusual for someone running for office.

We take for granted that presidential candidates to have economic plans and education plans and health care plans and foreign policy plans. (We may not want to hear about them in great detail, but it’s comforting to know they exist.) But the question of how people will deal with online threats has rarely—if ever—been a decisive factor in determining who wants to vote for them.

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