Illustration by Jim Cooke

Cyber attacks are an ever-increasing threat to the US. Just last year, a colossal hack believed to be conducted by China revealed personal information of more than 21.5 million people—and that was just one attack. To get into the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, the FBI had to pay at least $1 million to a hacker group for access, and that number is only likely to grow.


American business are regularly being targeted by international hackers. When Sony Pictures was targeted in 2014, the hack revealed more than 100 terabytes of data including movie scripts and medial records of employees. The next president will be asked to prevent those kinds of attacks from occurring. But most of the candidates don’t agree on how to make sure that happens. Here’s exactly what each candidate thinks about cyber warfare:

Hillary Clinton

Clinton is more outspoken about cyber threats than her democratic opponent, Bernie Sanders. She has regularly challenged China, even saying the country is “trying to hack into everything that doesn’t move” during a campaign event in New Hampshire last year.


During the same rally, Clinton described cybersecurity as“one of the biggest challenges for our next president” and vowed to make any country carrying out hacks to “pay the price.” Clinton has also polled well as the most qualified on handling cyberattack issues among voters.

The downside to Clinton is that she faces allegations that foreign agencies tried hack her email, which was stored on an less-than-protected server while she was Secretary of State. She claims that no sensitive documents were up for grabs.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sander’s foreign policy is notoriously scant on details. Sanders is reportedly in the midst of building a foreign policy team, but has said much less about issues abroad than Clinton.


Sanders supported the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, saying “our nation’s national security and economy face unprecedented threats from cyber-attacks, and it is important that we defend ourselves as best we can while, at the same time, protecting the privacy and civil liberties of the American people.” This line foreshadowed his reportedly negative thoughts on the more controversial Protecting Cyber Networks Act, which calls for more fluid ways to share information between companies and the government—and has been criticized as a potential threat to personal privacy.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s primary suggestion for fighting the growing influence of ISIS online is to shut down parts of the internet. That should tell you something about his grasp of how cyberwarfare works. “Shut down parts of the internet” as a cyberwarfare strategy is perhaps even more absurd than “build a giant wall to keep Mexicans out” is for immigration.



Trump criticize the Obama Administration for not appropriately responding to Chinese cyberattacks and has even been on the receiving end of a hacking attack by Anonymous. In an interview with The New York Times, Donald Trump called the US’s “cyber” capabilities “obsolete,” saying “but certainly cyber has to be a, you know, certainly cyber has to be in our thought process, very strongly in our thought process.” Trump didn’t clarify what that means in terms of actual policy.

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz believes that China is waging a digital war against the US, and he has denounced the Obama Administration’s approach to those threats. Remember when the Pentagon’s Joint Staff unclassified email system was hacked in 2015? At the time, Cruz pointed out that the timing matched up with secretive meetings between Russian officials and an Iranian general, insinuating that Iran was in on that attack in some way, and said it was a “consequence” of Obama’s cyber warfare policy.

So we know Cruz does not approve of how the Obama Administration handles cyber security. What’s less clear is what Cruz plans to do differently. He’s generally very hawkish, but he hasn’t laid out a clear policy for responding to digital attacks.

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio wants to vastly expand US military and cyber warfare forces. He even wants to study whether cyber warfare should have its own military branch, instead of being operated by the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force. “As president, I will never send our troops into a fair fight; I will always equip them with the upper hand and the technological edge,” he said.


Rubio also encouraged Barack Obama to threaten China with sanctions over its recent hack of federal worker’s data. “Increasingly China is acting as an irresponsible and destabilizing force,” Rubio said, according to report from The Hill. “If it is to be dissuaded from continuing down this dangerous path, Beijing’s provocations must be met with more than mere rhetoric.” Rubio also said that China is “practicing how to blow up our satellites.” The bizarre statement was actually true. China blew up one of its own satellites in 2007 as part of what’s presumed to be an expansion of space military operations.

Contact the editor at; Images from AP Photo via Matt Rourke, David Becker, Gerald Herbert, Marcio Jose Sanchez, David Goldman.