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Utah leaders react to Trump's pitch for Russian cybersecurity partnership

Utah leaders react to Trump's pitch for Russian cybersecurity partnership

(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, File)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah political leaders reacted strongly, and negatively, to President Donald Trump's self-reported details on discussions about a potential collaboration on cybersecurity efforts with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a sidebar conversation during the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

Trump posted a tweet Sunday morning, stating he and the Russian leader "discussed forming an impenetrable cyber security unit" that earned him widespread, and bipartisan, criticism.

Later in the day, Trump qualified his earlier communication with another tweet that said, in part, "The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn't mean I think it can happen."

On Monday morning, Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, who also sits on the House Intelligence Committee, told KSL Newsradio's Doug Wright that the U.S. should work to develop a positive relationship with Russia but that the president's idea was ill-concieved.

"They’re the most aggressive, most effective cyberattackers in the world," Stewart said. "Why in the world would we think we could partner with them and bring them into any part of our security access on that.

"I don't think the president was serious about that."

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is the chairman of the Senate Republican High-Tech Task Force and has a long record of promoting legislation aimed at combating cyber-based crime. He was also critical of Trump's tactics in the Putin meeting.

"Russia has been one of the worst actors in history on the issue of cyberattacks," Hatch said. "Any international partnerships we establish should focus on broadening our understanding of threats and discussing best practices for defense, not sharing sensitive information."


Pete Ashdown, Utah broadband internet provider Xmission's founder and CEO, who has also ran for Hatch's U.S. Senate seat as a Democrat in 2006 and 2012, said the federal government has a poor record when it comes to leading-out on cybersecurity threats.

"I’ve always thought that federal government's approach to overarching national cybersecurity issues indicates that they don’t know what they’re talking about," Ashdown said. "Having the government say 'this is what we need to do for cybersecurity' has never struck a chord with me."

Russia has been one of the worst actors in history on the issue of cyberattacks.

–Sen. Orrin Hatch

Ashdown, who's been running Xmission since 1993, said the majority of solutions and strategies to protect against cyber intrusions have come from individual and small groups of independent researchers, academic institutions and the industry itself.

He cited recent issues, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation seeking court orders to compel Apple to assist in extracting data from iPhones seized in criminal investigations as further signs that government agencies are generally out of touch with current digital security matters. Email: Twitter: DNTechHive

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