The next president will face a cybercrisis within 100 days, predicts report

Cyber security and the U.S. election
Cyber security and the U.S. election

The next president will face a cybercrisis in the first 100 days of their presidency, research firm Forrester predicts in a new report.

The crisis could come as a result of hostile actions from another country or internal conflict over privacy and security legislation, said Forrester analyst Amy DeMartine, lead author of the firm's top cybersecurity risks for 2017 report, due to be made public Tuesday.

History grades a president's first 100 days as the mark of how their four-year term will unfold, so those early days are particularly precarious, said DeMartine. The new commander in chief will face pressure from foreign entities looking to embarrass them early on, just as U.S. government agencies jockey for position within the new administration, she said.

Cyberwarfare between Russia and the U.S. will escalate, and the U.S. government will respond in 2017, said DeMartine.

U.S. intelligence officials have blamed Russia for the hacking of Democratic National Committee servers and subsequent leaks of sensitive information timed to interfere with the U.S. election. More information obtained through that breach will be leaked to embarrass and discredit the new administration, said DeMartine.

Additional information will come out about U.S. strategy, the inner workings of the government and perhaps more political figures as a result of the DNC breach, said DeMartine.

"Those kinds of things will be leaked to discredit our government and their actions," she said. "All governments need to ramp up their security."

Chinese government hacking will continue in 2017, despite a joint agreement not to conduct cybertheft of intellectual property.

"We expect the same kind of campaigns to continue regardless of the public agreed cease-fires," said DeMartine.

The massive U.S. Office of Personnel Management breach, which exposed the records of millions of U.S government workers, has strained diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China, since the U.S. believes Chinese spies carried out the attack.

"It could be this is a stepping off point into other areas they are able to exploit," she said.

Knowing who has access to certain security clearance levels could open up the opportunity for attacks via internet connected devices and having access to health-care records could expose people's genetic markers or fingerprints.

"They won't stop, they will gain other information for whatever purpose they are looking for," said DeMartine.

Countries like North Korea and Iran have been building capabilities for offensive purposes and will likely try to hack public and private databases, said DeMartine.

Like Russia and China, these smaller aggressors are after information about U.S. citizens, such as their whereabouts or applications to government agencies, that can be used to manipulate the U.S. political system and degrade and embarrass American organizations, she said.

Cryptowars at home will force the next president to take action on privacy, said DeMartine.

In 2017, America will have to decide what information is protected by the Constitution and what information the government should have access to in order to protect U.S. citizens, she said. Government agencies will seek for more access and U.S. companies will push back to protect privacy, as Apple has done, she said.

"It's going to be a tug of war to see who wins, and I believe the government will have to get involved," she said.

The worst-case scenario is that the president has to deal with all of these crises in the first 100 days, said DeMartine.

"I can see the external and internal threats happening simultaneously — what a great way to disrupt an incoming president," she said.

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Of course, predictions do not always come true. That said, last year, Forrester accurately predicted that in 2016 cybersecurity would play a major role in the U.S. president election and that a breach would force the resignation of two CEOs.

The DNC hack and email leaks forced DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to resign and the Panama Papers revelations forced Iceland Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson to step down. Forrester gave itself a B grade, since the two leaders who stepped down were not CEOs.