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Trump's apparent call for foreign cyber hack of Clinton sparks security concerns

Posted On: Jul. 31, 2016 12:00 AM CST

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's call for Russia to find and expose thousands of emails from Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton's days as secretary of state could be viewed as encouraging the violation of national security and individual privacy laws, and is comparable to inviting attacks on business competitors.

As part of an investigation into her usage of a private email server while secretary of state, Ms. Clinton revealed that while she had handed over 30,000 emails to the State Department, she deleted a similar number that she said were unrelated to her work.

“Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mr. Trump said last week. “I think you will be rewarded mightily by our press.”

After a storm of controversy, however, Mr. Trump the next day said: “Of course, I'm being sarcastic.”

Thomas B. Alleman, a member of law firm Dykema Gossett P.L.L.C. in Dallas, said Mr. Trump's comment is akin to “inviting the thief to steal from a competitor's store.”

“If you take Mr. Trump's name off of it and make it generic, the true message here is that everyone in your audience, every law firm, every business has a competitor who would like to see what is going on in your business and to use that against you if they can,” Mr. Alleman said.

“I'm sure he intended it facetiously, as many things he says are, but it's an invitation to basically violate applicable laws,” said Michael R. Overly, a partner at Foley & Lardner L.L.P. in Los Angeles.

“One of the greatest threats, in all honesty, of hacking in today's world is this problem of state-sponsored hacking, where you have China, you have Russia, you have other countries,” including the United States, engaged in the practice, Mr. Overly said. “With the concerns of state-sponsored hacking, one does not want to go down the path of any government,” including ours, engaging in such hacking.

“From a cyber security perspective, anytime you're inviting an outside entity to hack into private citizens' emails, or even a public citizen's, you're essentially inviting them to commit a crime,” said Matthew J. Siegel, a member of Cozen O'Connor in Philadelphia.

“Sarcastic or not, it's a breach of national security potentially, but it's also a breach of an individual's private security, both of which could be considered criminal activity,” Mr. Siegel said.

“Cyber security is clearly one of our nation's top priorities,” said Roberta Anderson, a partner at K&L Gates L.L.P. in Pittsburgh.

“Cyber war, through breaches of cyber security, is likely to be a large part of any war that we would be involved in as a nation, and so inviting a nation state to hack us, to breach cyber security for any purpose, is at a minimum irresponsible,” Ms. Anderson said. Breaching our cyber security “can cause widespread harm and potentially cripple us as a nation.”