Bush: 'Appalling' that US is not 'superior' in cyberspace

Bush: 'Appalling' that US is not 'superior' in cyberspace

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush pledged Wednesday that as president, he would make the military’s cybersecurity skills “superior to anything fielded against them.”

“It is frankly appalling that the United States is not plainly superior to rivals who seek to undermine us in cyberspace,” he said during a defense policy speech at The Citadel in South Carolina.

ADVERTISEMENT

Bush’s speech comes just days after the devastating terrorist attacks in Paris set off a renewed conversation about increasing the government’s ability to surveil digital communications and crack encrypted data.

Officials and lawmakers have said it is likely that those behind the attacks used some form of encrypted communications during the planning stages of the deadly plot, which killed over 100 people and wounded hundreds of others. Many have conceded, however, that there is little evidence to substantiate these suspicions.

Bush, who has fallen back in the GOP presidential polls since entering the race as a perceived front-runner, touched on the Paris attacks at the top of his remarks, arguing the incident is further evidence that "the greatest risk of all is the risk of military inferiority."

He then segued into a broader plan to “rebuild our military forces starting with our most urgent needs,” such as improving surveillance and cybersecurity capabilities.

“Our government, and American companies, are under cyberattack every day,” he said. “To protect ourselves, it is not enough to keep making fixes after every breach.”

The remarks are part of the former Florida governor's ongoing attempts to stake out a tough stance on cybersecurity. In September, he released a five-point plan to strengthen the country’s cybersecurity, and last week he called for offensive cyber strikes against China in retaliation for its alleged widespread hacking campaigns targeting the U.S.

Both U.S. businesses and government agencies have been hammered by hacks in recent years.

Breaches at major retailers like Home Depot and Target and banks like JPMorgan alone have exposed hundreds of millions of Americans’ sensitive data.

And this summer, several intrusions at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) compromised over 20 million federal workers’ private information. It’s believed China was behind the digital hit, part of the Asian power’s ongoing cyber espionage campaign against the U.S.

Bush on Wednesday said he believes the U.S. has fallen victim to these threats — and others — because it lacks a clear cyber warfare policy.

“I would work hard to see that the United States is at the forefront of developing a much-needed doctrine on cyber warfare,” he said.” Potential hackers and cyber thieves — government or non-state actors — need to understand what sort of response they will face should they attack us.”

The Obama administration has made no public response to the OPM hacks, conceding that the information pilfered — including security clearance background check data — was a legitimate espionage target, similar to those the U.S. may pursue in China.

Bush has joined several of his GOP White House competitors in criticising Obama’s lack of retaliation for the OPM intrusions.

“Making good on this new doctrine will also require that we develop our own capabilities to the point that America’s retaliation to a cyber attack would be certain and devastating,” he said Wednesday, invoking former president John Kennedy.

“America, as John F. Kennedy said, ‘requires only one kind of defense policy, a policy summed up in a single word: first.’ "