How Will The Next President Protect Our Digital Lives? : It's All Politics For the first time in a White House race, the candidates will need a game plan for cyber policy for Day 1 in the Oval Office and will have some tough choices to make.
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How Will The Next President Protect Our Digital Lives?

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How Will The Next President Protect Our Digital Lives?

How Will The Next President Protect Our Digital Lives?

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The risk of being compromised online seems to be lurking around every corner. We learned yesterday that thieves stole personal data from more than 100,000 taxpayers through the IRS website. With the government vulnerable along with private companies, it's an issue likely to face whoever occupies the White House. This week, NPR is looking at the challenges that will confront the next president on the first day in office. NPR's Aarti Shahani has more on the crisis in cyber security.

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: The game plan could shape up any number of ways. Our digital lives and the attacks against our digital lives are pretty new.

EDWARD SNOWDEN: My name's Ed Snowden. I'm 29 years old.

SHAHANI: With Edward Snowden, American citizens learned we're the target of a mass surveillance program we didn't know about. And the National Security Agency, a military agency, is porous, vulnerable to insiders hacking and stealing. And with the Sony attack, we see security breaches can bring big companies to a screeching, embarrassing halt.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Leaked emails between two major Hollywood power players now reveal racist jokes against President Obama.

SHAHANI: And let's not forget.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Target says 40 million credit and debit card accounts...

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Health insurance company Anthem says it is scrambling to notify millions of its customers whose information may have been stolen...

SHAHANI: Credit card fraud, a la Target, set off a credit monitoring frenzy. And Anthem demonstrated no institution is sacred. How do hackers even make money from stolen medical records? And then, of course, there are the digital crimes of passion we're committing against each other. Take revenge porn.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Some of the photos came from ex-lovers. Other photos were hacked.

SHAHANI: Is this starting to feel overwhelming? When it comes to cybersecurity, the next president of the United States has tough choices to make. Before even getting to solutions, what are the most important problems? And where should the federal government weigh in or leave it to states or companies?

JIM LEWIS: In 1996, we didn't need to worry about security because the market would take care of it.

SHAHANI: That's Jim Lewis, a senior official at the Departments of State and Commerce during the Clinton era, talking about what experts assumed back in the '90s.

LEWIS: Consumers would demand security and companies would provide it. That hasn't happened.

SHAHANI: Under Clinton, the Internet went from a Pentagon project to a place for companies to play, experiment. And under Obama, we saw the smartphone revolution. Lewis says, now, we've got to step back.

LEWIS: And say, just as we have energy policy and space policy and defense policy, maybe we need cyber policy.

SHAHANI: It's very hard to regulate technology that's unfolding before our very eyes. Lewis, who's now a fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., names one key issue - consumer protection. And he says it's a foreign policy issue. Certain countries are sanctuaries for cyber criminals. That's often where our personal data is flowing.

LEWIS: Finding out that someone in the Russian mafia has all your credit card information and your social security number doesn't make the average voter happy.

SHAHANI: Cybersecurity expert Bruce Schneier, a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center, says another way to protect consumers is corporate accountability.

BRUCE SCHNEIER: What government can do about data breaches is increase the penalties. And right now, your data is not very well protected because the cost of losing it isn't very high to the companies that have it.

SHAHANI: Schneier wants to see the next president take on privacy, too. What should police be able to access without a warrant and what should companies be allowed to store? So far, we've just kind of assumed that the answer is everything. For example, the company Uber published a light-hearted article about people using Uber to have flings.

SCHNEIER: Basically, they looked at rides happening in the evening from point A to point B, and rides happening the next morning by the same person back.

SHAHANI: Now, Uber didn't publish the names of the people. It was aggregate, big data. But, Schneier says, without a federal law on commercial privacy, they could have.

SCHNEIER: And right now under U.S. law, they could do whatever they like with that data. And it is just them being nice that makes them not publish it or sell it to people trying to market to you.

SHAHANI: So many issues - data encryption, structural reform of the NSA, the role of Homeland Security. We haven't even talked about whether the next president's Supreme Court nominee believes in changing passwords regularly. Aarti Shahani, NPR News.

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