Cybersecurity Conference Includes 'Hackers For Hillary' Fundraiser
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Now here's a political endorsement you might not expect. Hillary Clinton is the candidate who set up a private email server and was, in the words of the director of the FBI, extremely careless in how she handled classified information. Her campaign and the Democratic Party just got hacked, and yet, prominent leaders in the cybersecurity industry are coming out in favor of Clinton for president. Here's NPR's Aarti Shahani.
MONTAGNE: You can't make this stuff up.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Trilling, laughter).
AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: It's a Hillary Clinton fundraiser at a high-end Mexican restaurant in Las Vegas, but the people who paid to come here mostly are not Democrats. They're independents and libertarians.
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SHAHANI: They're in town for Black Hat, a conference for the elite of the cybersecurity world, a group typically leery of partisan politics.
JEFF MOSS: If Hillary is sort of almost status quo - and the devil we know versus complete crazy unknown, I'm not willing to risk the country on the complete crazy unknown.
SHAHANI: That's Jeff Moss, the founder of Black Hat and an independent who says he's going to vote for Clinton, not Donald Trump. A volunteer for the Clinton campaign asked him to headline this event.
MOSS: Trump's had enough time to demonstrate - here are the experts I've brought in. Here are my policy positions. And I kept waiting for him to show off his business skills with his experts and his white papers.
SHAHANI: And then Trump called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton. Moss says if people at this conference ever made that call, the FBI would be at their doorstep in a heartbeat. To Moss's knowledge, this is the first ever political fundraiser at Black Hat in its 19 years - there won't be one for Trump - and he tells the donors there he's gotten some heat for it on Facebook.
MOSS: It's funny. You really figure out everybody's politics quickly.
SHAHANI: Attendees want to know Clinton's politics when it comes to cybersecurity in far more detail than she's discussed to date. While she's considered a policy wonk, they say on this issue, she's not. During the Q&A, Rick Wesson, another independent, poses this question.
RICK WESSON: My question is, how do you develop a policy that isn't about cyberwarfare but about cyberpeace?
SHAHANI: The U.S. is reeling from attacks - Sony Pictures, federal workers at the Office of Personnel Management, hospitals, the IRS. A trigger-happy leader could, in a moment of passion, hack back at an adversary who's not actually the adversary. Hackers can spoof locations. Roland Lindsey has a different cyberwar question.
ROLAND LINDSEY: What is the administration going to do to ensure that we actually have good talent fighting the cyberwar when we're dealing with adversaries who have wildly different recruiting standards?
SHAHANI: It's widely believed in this room that Russia encourages its best criminal hackers, while the U.S. prosecutes theirs. The security chief for Facebook was in attendance but declined an interview. Symantec security czar Tarah Wheeler agrees to speak as an individual.
TARAH WHEELER VAN VLACK: I'm an American. I'm the child of two NSA agents.
SHAHANI: National Security Agency, the government's giant cyberspy. Wheeler says she started out as a member of one party she would not identify, but this election is making her rethink. And cybersecurity, she says, ought to be a major policy concern. Wheeler wants a leader who seeks out vastly different expert opinions and, for her, that's Clinton.
WHEELER VAN VLACK: I'm worried when someone only hears one point of view. I want lots out there and the best one to be refined down to its essence and used.
SHAHANI: Moss pointed out earlier to NPR that Clinton's campaign has been hacked. She's a victim. He said if anyone has learned the importance of cybersecurity, she has. Aarti Shahani, NPR News, Las Vegas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.