At Donald Trump’s now-notorious press conference on Tuesday, lost amidst his threats to news organizations and denunciations of his enemies, the president-elect claimed he would soon assemble “some of the greatest computer minds anywhere in the world” to tackle the US government’s cybersecurity problem. On Thursday, he went the opposite route instead and hired Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani, Trump election surrogate and the disgraced former mayor of New York, is apparently going to head up Trump’s efforts to coordinate “cybersecurity” issues between the federal government and the private sector, the transition team announced Tuesday. But what does Giuliani, last seen on the campaign trail claiming the president can break whatever law he likes in a time of war, know about cybersecurity? From the look and sound of it, not much.

Giuliani does head a consulting firm in New York called Giuliani Partners that supposedly focuses on cybersecurity, but Vice’s Motherboard reported yesterday, it’s tough to tell what they actually do, and it’s even tougher to tell what Giuliani does for them, besides being the face of the operation while saying outrageous things on television.

As Motherboard’s Jason Koebler and Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai wrote, “Unlike many other cybersecurity firms, Giuliani Partners does not publish white papers about malware and large-scale hacks, or push for increased adoption of encryption, which would enhance cybersecurity across the board. In fact, it doesn’t talk much about cybersecurity at all, instead choosing to focus on its more traditional anti-crime consulting work.”

Just after the Trump team’s announcement, security experts took a look at Giuliani Partner’s website and started mercilessly mocking it on Twitter for glaring vulnerabilities and its own lax cybersecurity practices that makes it looks more like a website built in the mid 1990s than a supposedly respected cybersecurity firm would present the public today.

Rudy Giuliani is an absurd choice to defend the US from hackers- Top Financial Kevin Beaumont 🤗 (@GossiTheDog)

Oh, people are already poking it. pic.twitter.com/pxoi2M7HFU

January 13, 2017

In fact, searching Giuliani’s past public comments (for example, “I’d love to become the person that comes up with a solution to cybersecurity”) it’s hard to find an intelligent sentence he’s strung together on the subject at all.

There is one thing Giuliani should get credit for though: he realized earlier than most what a racket cybersecurity “consulting” would be. Here he is, for example, laughing about how much corporations paid his firm to do work in the mid 2000s.

While it’s amusing to make fun of Giuliani, hiring people with little or no bona fide security experience to head up cybersecurity practices in government is sadly a tried and true pastime in Washington. Instead of tapping actual computer security experts, politicians in many cases continue to put their friends or people they know in charge of a monumental problem that requires expertise beyond having many political connections or relationships with donors.

The DNC’s response to the hack of their emails is the perfect example. The Democrats and Republicans should have been well aware their information could be hacked by a foreign government since it happened to both Obama and John McCain in 2008. But it was only after the DNC’s leaked emails started being published in the summer that the committee announced it would create a Cybersecurity Advisory Board to “ensure that the DNC’s cybersecurity capabilities are best-in-class”.

As technologist Chris Soghoian asked at the time, “Will the DNC cyber board have experienced cybersecurity pros or just ex senior intelligence officials & politicians?” Sure enough, a day later when the lineup was announced, every person on it was either a lawyer or ex-government official – not an engineer or computer scientist among them.

Congress itself suffers from the same problem. While there are four members of the House with a computer science degree, none of them have been assigned to the cybersecurity subcommittee by their parties’ leadership. John McCain, who will soon create a new cybersecurity subcommittee in the Senate, admits to never even using email.

But while Giuliani is just a particularly cartoonish example of a longstanding problem, he is, in one sense, a perfect fit for the Trump administration: yet another already rich man taking a position in which he clearly has a vested interest, set to more money for himself and likely to fail those he’s supposed to be helping. Giuliani will almost certainly get fatter contracts while he continues to head up his “cybersecurity” firm, but it’s the American people who will ultimately lose.

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