Katarina Jonev, analyst for cyber security policy: The US elections 2016: the victory of cyber or real life?

We are living in times with no secrecy allowed, says Katarina Jonev, analyst for cyber security policy, commenting the ongoing debate on so-called “Russian hackers” influencing the outcome of the American presidential elections last year


2016 will be remembered for a series of scandals that took place in cyberspace. Cyber security is becoming increasingly important in the agendas of the countries, organisations, and of course individuals. And how not, when terrorists are planning attacks by using computer games such is “Call of Duty”, cyber crime gains financial profit that counts in billon of dollars, privacy of a common man is compromised, cyber espionage is becoming a powerful weapon in the hands of the great powers and the possibility of cyber warfare between the states is increasing. Not to mention that even the scandal of Panama papers had a cyber background and smartphones are targets as much as computers. Cyber attacks are becoming more and more a part of reality and the consequences are different. And yes – the cyber security influence on the decision makers as well. And the biggest cyber scandal … of course – ongoing in the cyber space during the presidential campaign in America.

Let’s be clear and immediately understand from the beginning – Hillary Clinton did not lose the elections because of Russian hackers. Or that she was too bothered, as she says itself, to have 2 emails and to carry two phones in the bag. She lost because…well, because she is Hillary Clinton. But in the crossfire of confrontations in the dirtiest election campaign ever, the media were closely following every move and searched for the culprits in advance.

Numerous officials, “officials” and ”free” media were point the finger to Julian Assange and Wikileaks, Russian agencies which sponsored Russian hackers to create a bad image of female candidate in the presidential race, and just as we thought that he fell into oblivion, Snowden was in the game again. In a very tide race two very unpopular candidates, it was more than easy to switch the blame and accusations of various actions, including cyber.

The fact is that Hillary Clinton made the cardinal mistake of using her private email account hdr22@clintonemail.com for business correspondence and in public office for four years she was Secretary of State. From 62.320 emails as much as she received/sent, exactly 30.490 emails were official, i.e. those that are directly related to the performance of its functions. The rest were private correspondence. And a function of the Secretary of State of the most powerful country in the world is quite serious. Clinton defended herself by claiming that no email that is sent or received was not marked as “classified”. Really? Not one email for the most powerful woman in the most powerful country was top secret? Confidential? Secret? Interesting to know. And the story doesn’t end here. Not even a powerful FBI punished her. She used very wisely grey zone legislation on electronic correspondence from that time.

And Wikileaks… many hate them, many are scared of them, many accused them of being terrorists which undermine state authority, but we must not lose from sight that it is officially ”multi-national media organisation and associated library ”. They publish official documents and dates they get from whistleblowers, not the gossips. The largest number of released data during this campaign came thanks to Hillary’s election campaign chief John D. Podesta, whose private email account was hacked. A short reminder – Podesta participated in writing reports on cyber privacy for now “future-former” president Obama in 2014 but how is it possible that he was not familiar with phishing tactics and adjustment of his own email account? Anyway, hackers sent to Wikileaks about 50,000 emails and they were publishing about 2000 per day. Among other things that leaked, public found out that the Democrats thought of how to ensure the nomination of Hillary Clinton rather than her rival Bernie Sanders and that the former first lady a talk one thing with Wall Street bankers and quite another to ordinary voters. Of course, for all damages arising from the affair with a leak of information and emails were accused Russian, actually to be more precise, Putin’s hackers. In the weeks after the election, the media and the Democrats blame the Russian hackers to interfere in American elections. We must clarify one thing – no matter how good they are, Russian hackers are not all-powerful to decide on the election of the President of the great United States on the open, democratic and free elections.

But is all this reason that Hillary did not become president? It is undeniable that certain information about the emails and from the e-mails caused the stir but it is frivolous to say that because of it Trump won his victory. If Hillary was sincere and committed to citizens and public, rather than the she further igniting the fire with insincere press releases, the election results might have been different. And sometimes, just sometimes cyber world does not win – it is the true, real life that wins.


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