On the eve of his election in 1980 Ronald Reagan asked America, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" The then presidential candidate enumerated a list of questions that compelled the country to examine and reconsider their economic status. The question propelled Reagan to the White House, and economic considerations defined his role as a transformational president.
Today, after a bitter election fought on social media and fraught with hacking and propaganda, the 45th president could ask: "Are you more secure today than four years ago?" The answer for most would be an unambiguous "no!"
The rise of cybersecurity concerns raised by hacking and data theft is not, of course, the fault of the previous president. In a paradigm shift that began long before he took office, Obama presided over a history swing from the industrial economy to a digital economy. During the Obama years Silicon Valley reemerged as a powerhouse, social media became a major influence, and the iPhone and Android took off. Obama also strengthened the NSA and expanded government surveillance, battled Apple over encryption, and helped develop Stuxnet, the first cyber-weapon used against another country.
SEE: Three ways encryption can safeguard your cloud files (Tech Pro Research)
"Trump's administration will create a fundamental shift in concerns as it pertains to security," said Carson Sweet, CTO and cofounder of cloud security firm CloudPassage. "There's a new sheriff in town, and many posit that he has less regard for privacy concerns than the current administration."
With the recommendation of improved offensive capabilities and the creation of a digital task force Trump could choose to prioritize domestic cybersecurity, Sweet said, but the president's policies are still vague. The lack of specific security policy exposes consumers and companies to risk. "This very weak vision makes one wonder how much actual policy we'll see in the short term," Sweet said. "I do believe that Trump's... comments that Russian sanctions are too harsh will result in sending signals resulting in threat actors [like] hackers and state-sponsored [attackers] feeling more comfortable executing attacks with lower risk of real consequences."
WATCH: Encrypted messages: Does the government need a way in? (CBS News)
Increased surveillance could protect against domestic terror attacks but also have a deleterious impact on innovation. "If this new administration values law enforcement access over citizen privacy, they'll double or triple down on the government's right to inspect data. The impact of such a reality would extend to the use of online services, cloud providers, even personal computing devices and Internet-enabled things."
TechRepublic wants to know: Will President Trump's administration strengthen or harm cybersecurity, encryption, and digital privacy? Vote in our poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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Dan Patterson has nothing to disclose. He does not hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Dan is a Senior Writer for TechRepublic. He covers cybersecurity and the intersection of technology, politics and government.