Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast

We celebrate the holiday season by interviewing David Ignatius, Columnist and Associate Editor at The Washington Post and the author of multiple spy thrillers, including his most recent, "The Quantum Spy." David and I discuss themes from the book, from quantum computing to ethnic and gender tensions at the Agency, while managing to avoid spoilers. It’s a fun and insightful work.

 

Steptoe partner Stewart Baker with David Ignatius.

In the news, I flag Twitter’s weird journey from the free speech wing of the free speech party to the censorship wing of the Censor’s Party. Twitter is now revoking the verification checks for people whose speech it disapproves of. It’s even de-checking people based on its assessment of their off-line conduct. So maybe that should be the Stasi wing of the Censor’s Party. And, not surprisingly, given Silicon Valley’s steep leftward-tilt, the censorship seems to fall far more harshly on the right than on less PC targets.

Markham Erickson and I treat Twitter’s wobbly stance as a symptom of the breakdown of the Magaziner Consensus, as both left and right for their own reasons come to view Big Tech with suspicion. Markham has shrewd observations about what it all means for the (questionable) future of social media’s section 230 immunity.

We dive into a surprising new analysis of China’s “50c Army.” Turns out that the Chinese government strategy for flooding the internet is 180 degrees off from Russia’s. Instead of a Trollfest, Chinese government-funded social media is saccharine sweet. Cheerleading and changing the subject are what its army does best.

Markham, Brian Egan, and I give broadly positive reviews to the US government’s recently announced Vulnerability Equities Process. And, in a correction to those who’ve said that other countries don’t have such a process, I point to evidence that China has one–in which all the equities seem to point to exploit, exploit, exploit.

All of which ought to turn the story of US agencies using Chinese “security” cameras from disquieting to positively frightening. Speaking of which, the Chinese company that made your drone has provided a case study on how not to do a bug bounty program. Read it and weep.

On a lighter note, we talk backflipping robots and a surprising peril of traveling with your family this holiday season–thumbprint phone security failure followed by titanic spousal air rage. Where is Tim Cook’s privacy schtick when we really need it?

Download the 193rd Episode (mp3).

As always The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Send your questions, suggestions for interview candidates or topics to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com or leave a message at +1 202 862 5785.

The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of the firm.

Direct download: TheCyberlawPodcast-193.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:23pm EST

With the Texas church shooting having put encryption back on the front burner, I claim that Apple is becoming the FBI's crazy ex-girlfriend in Silicon Valley—and offer the tapes to prove it. When Nick Weaver rises to Apple's defense, I point out that Apple responded to a Chinese government man-in-the-middle attack on iCloud users with spineless obfuscation rather than a brave defense of user privacy. Nick asks for a citation. Here it is: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT203126 (Careful:  don't click without a chiropractor standing by.)

Nick provides actual news to supplement the New York Times' largely news-free front page storyabout leak and mole fears at NSA.

I gloat, briefly, over hackback's new respectability, as the Active Cyber Defense Certainty Act acquires new cosponsors, including Trey Gowdy, and hacking back acquires new respectability. But not everywhere.

Michael Sulmeyer finally gets a word in edgewise as the conversation shifts to the National Defense Authorization Act. He discusses the Modernizing Government Technology Act, the growing Armed Services Committee oversight of cyberoperations, and the decision to lift—and perhaps separate—Cyber Command from National Security Agency. I take issue with any decision that requires that a three-star NSA director to argue intelligence equities with a four-star combatant commander

We end with Michael Sulmeyer and I walking through the challenges for the Pentagon in deterring cyberattacks. We both end up expressing skepticism about the current path. 

As always The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Send your questions, suggestions for interview candidates or topics to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com or leave a message at +1 202 862 5785.

Download the 192nd Episode (mp3).

Subscribe to The Cyberlaw Podcast here. We are also on iTunesPocket Casts, and Google Play (available for Android and Google Chrome)!

The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of the firm.

Direct download: TheCyberlawPodcast-192.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:48pm EST

Episode 191 is our long-awaited election security podcast before a live, and lively, audience. Our panel consists of Chris Krebs, formerly of Microsoft and now the top cybersecurity official at DHS (with the longest title in the federal government as proof), and Ed Felten, formerly the deputy chief technology officer of the federal government and currently Princeton professor focused on cybersecurity and policy. We walk through the many stages of election machinery and the many ways that digitizing those stages has introduced new insecurities into our election results.

When all is said and done, however, the entire panel ends up more or less in one place: Election security is not to be taken for granted; it will be hard to achieve, but it’s not impossible, or even unaffordable. With sufficient will and focus, and perhaps a touch of Ned Ludd, we may be able to overcome the risk of foreign hackers interfering in our elections. At least outside of New Jersey.

As always The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Send your questions, suggestions for interview candidates or topics to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com or leave a message at +1 202 862 5785.

Download the 191st Episode (mp3).

Subscribe to The Cyberlaw Podcast here. We are also on iTunes, Pocket Casts, and Google Play (available for Android and Google Chrome)!

The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of the firm.

Direct download: TheCyberlawPodcast-191.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:51am EST

In our 190th episode, Stewart Baker has a chance to interview Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who has a long history of engagement with technology and security issues. In this episode, we spend a remarkably detailed half-hour with him, covering the cybersecurity waterfront, from the FBI’s problems accessing the Texas church shooter’s phone, and what Silicon Valley should do about that, to Vladimir Putin’s electoral adventurism and how to combat it. Along the way, we touch (skeptically) on the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and more enthusiastically on allowing private citizens to leave their networks to track the hackers who’ve attacked them.  Plus: botnet cures, praise for Microsoft, a cybersecurity inspector general (or, maybe, bug bounties), DHS’s role in civilian cybersecurity, and how much bigger Rhode Island really is at low tide!

As always The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Send your questions, suggestions for interview candidates or topics to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com or leave a message at +1 202 862 5785.

Download the 190th Episode (mp3).

Subscribe to The Cyberlaw Podcast here. We are also on iTunes, Pocket Casts, and Google Play (available for Android and Google Chrome)!

The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of the firm.

Direct download: TheCyberlawPodcast-190.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:34pm EST

In our 189th episode Stewart Baker has a chance to interview United States Representative Tom Graves, co-sponsor of the Active Cyber Defense Certainty (ACDC) Act, which allows those whose networks are under persistent attack to leave their network to conduct investigative action.  Representative Graves offers a measured but deeply felt defense of the proposal and is optimistic about its reception.  And, with the hard-hitting investigative approach The Cyberlaw Podcast is known for, I ask the tough question:  “Is this bill a tribute to AC/DC – and if so, which song?”  (Hint in the title of the blog post.)

Mark your calendars for November 7th when we will gather for a live taping of a special episode on Election Cybersecurity at our Dupont Circle offices here in DC. To register please visit the Events page of our website at steptoe.com.

As always The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Send your questions, suggestions for interview candidates or topics to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com or leave a message at +1 202 862 5785.

Download the 189th Episode (mp3).

Subscribe to The Cyberlaw Podcast here. We are also on iTunes, Pocket Casts, and Google Play (available for Android and Google Chrome)!

The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of the firm.

Direct download: TheCyberlawPodcast-189.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:38pm EST

In this episode, Brian Egan and I deconstruct the endlessly proliferating “FISA 702 Reform” bills, from the irresponsible House Judiciary bill to the “I’ll see your irresponsible and raise you crazy” bipartisan extremist bill beloved of Sens. Wyden and Paul (and talk about truth in advertising: what else would you call a bill that takes us back to the pre-9/11 status quo but S.1997?). Even the relatively restrained Senate Intelligence bill takes fire for its, ahem, “creative” approach to FBI searches of 702 data. Brian does not share my distaste for all of the options, but agrees that the cornucopia of 702 proposals makes it even more unlikely that anything other than a straight-up short-term reauthorization can be passed before the end of the year.

In other legislative news, CFIUS reform is also in the air, and Sen. Cornyn's carefully scripted rollout has begun. In her podcast debut, Alexis Early unpacks this complex bill. Need a one-word explanation? China. The bill tries to block all of the avenues China is believed to have traveled in its pursuit of US technology over the last decade. We also discuss how the bill would remove the veneer of “voluntariness” from at least part of the CFIUS process, which could impact a range of filers – particularly US technology companies seeking foreign investment.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for confirmation that privacy is really just another word for protecting privilege, Twitter is apparently eager to provide it. Even as criticism and warnings about Russian misuse of Twitter to divide Americans and “diss” Hillary Clinton were rolling in last summer, the Russians were busily deleting their phony posts, and Twitter was right there to help. The company told even independent researchers who had saved Russian posts that the researchers had to delete any post that Twitter was deleting (which seems to be anything that the Russians deleted). This of course made it hard to criticize Twitter’s policies on foreign government trolling, since the evidence was gone, but the justification that Twitter offered was, naturally, privacy. Maybe the company’s privacy policy should come with a slogan: “Privacy: Good for you. Better for us.”

Of course, Twitter claims that it has to force the deletion of inconvenient tweets because of EU data protection policy. And indeed, European exceptionalism on the privacy front was front and center last week, with the European Parliament’s approval of a draft ePrivacy directive that law enforcement will hate, an unfavorable opinion on how many data protection authorities can regulate Facebook (clue: all of them), and an absolutely undecipherable explanation from the Article 29 working party of European restrictions on automated decision-making (my translation: “If you use AI in your business and we don’t like you, you’re toast.”). Maury Shenk provides a less jaundiced summary of these developments.

We do quick hits on Kaspersky’s defense, which looks more like it was designed to embarrass the US than to exonerate the company, on Microsoft’s eagerness to drop its gag order lawsuit in response to a change in DOJ policy, and on the FBI’s claim that encryption is now defeating half of the phone searches it tries to do. 

Our interview is with Chris Painter, the State Department’s top cyber diplomat under President Obama. He offers candid views about the Tillerson reorganization, which pushes his old office deeper into “deep State” (the State bureaucracy). He also assesses what went right and wrong for cyber diplomacy on his watch, and what the US should be doing going forward. Brian Egan referees as Chris and I have what the State Department might call a “frank and candid exchange of views.”

Mark your calendars for November 7th when we will gather for a live taping of a special episode on Election Cybersecurity at our Dupont Circle offices here in DC. To register please visit the Events page of our website at steptoe.com.

As always The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Send your questions, suggestions for interview candidates or topics to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com or leave a message at +1 202 862 5785.

Download the 188th Episode (mp3).

Subscribe to The Cyberlaw Podcast here. We are also on iTunes, Pocket Casts, and Google Play (available for Android and Google Chrome)!

The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of the firm.

Direct download: TheCyberlawPodcast-188.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:37pm EST

I had a chance to talk to Tom Bossert, President Trump’s Homeland Security Adviser, on the record, and we’re releasing the conversation as a bonus episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast. The talk ranges from Peggy Noonan’s observations on White House staff work to the vast improvement in the West Wing’s carpeting before turning to our main topic – the looming deadline for renewing authority for FISA section 702. Tom is deeply familiar with the issues in the debate over 702. He stands by the administration’s position that 702 should be renewed without amendment and without a sunset but he discusses with nuance the many legislative proposals for changing the program as well. Finally, we talk about the executive order that unleashed a flood of internal reports on empowering DHS to protect the US government’s systems, measures to protect critical infrastructure, and the administration’s hunt for a new cyberspace deterrence strategy.

Mark your calendars for November 7th when we will gather for a live taping of a special episode on Election Cybersecurity at our Dupont Circle offices here in DC. To register please visit the Events page of our website at steptoe.com.

As always The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Send your questions, suggestions for interview candidates or topics to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com or leave a message at +1 202 862 5785.

Download the 187th Episode (mp3).

Subscribe to The Cyberlaw Podcast here. We are also on iTunes, Pocket Casts, and Google Play (available for Android and Google Chrome)!

The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of the firm.

Direct download: TheCyberlawPodcast-187.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:56am EST

Our interview is another in our series on Section 702 reform, featuring Mieke Eoyang of the National Security Program at Third Way and Jamil Jaffer of George Mason University and IronNet Security. They begin with the history of the program but quickly focus on proposals to require warrants for FBI criminal searches of already collected 702 data, which Mieke broadly supports and Jamil broadly opposes. The Las Vegas shooter's case raises the question—are we really going to make the FBI wait for a warrant before checking its own 702 database to see whether Paddock has been in communication with terror groups and what he's been saying? 

In the news roundup, Jim Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Brian Egan nerd out with me on the DOD's objections to section 1621(f) of the National Defense Authorization Act. Neither Jim nor Brian finds them persuasive.                 

I give a preview of my plans to celebrate Halloween as a Russian Twitter troll, and Jim predicts that the main fallout from the entirely predictable Russian use of Twitter will be on Silicon Valley, as what I call the Magaziner Consensus, already dying abroad starts to look a little peaked here at home.  

Meanwhile, the North Korean hackers are still robbing banks, semi-successfully. And, remarkably, they're also finding studios even more willing to cave to cyber blackmail than Sony, as it turns out the hackers apparently killed a BBC show they found objectionable. Jim insists that these kinds of attacks tell us more about the calculating rationality of Kim Jong Un than his craziness. And, since Kim's getting away with both, maybe Jim is right.

I riff on the latest in sex toy security, introducing our audience to an entirely new internet vocabulary.

Also, the medical profession seems to be putting its collective head in the sand about medical device security. Jim is sure that liability for producers—and for doctors—will solve that problem before Congress. Knowing the FDA's shaky grasp of the issue, I’m not so sure. 

Finally, Brian reports that the EU's first Privacy Shield report found US data protection practices "adequate" under EU law. He thinks it's because the administration is taking the EU process seriously; I think it's because the EU is taking President Trump seriously—and has decided he's not someone whose adequacy you want to question lightly.

As always The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Send your questions, suggestions for interview candidates or topics to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com or leave a message at +1 202 862 5785.

Download the 186th Episode (mp3).

Subscribe to The Cyberlaw Podcast here. We are also on iTunesPocket Casts, and Google Play (available for Android and Google Chrome)!

The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of the firm.

Direct download: TheCyberlawPodcast-186.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:23pm EST

This episode features an interview with Mårten Mickos, the CEO of HackerOne. HackerOne administers bug bounty and vulnerability disclosure programs for a host of private companies as well as DOD’s “Hack the Pentagon” program. He explains how such programs work, how companies and agencies typically get started (with “vulnerability disclosure” programs), the legal and other assurances that companies need to provide to ensure participation, and the role that bounty administration firms play – from hacker reputation management to providing a kind of midnight basketball tournament for otherwise at-risk fourteen-year-old boys. (And they are boys, at least 98% of them, an issue we also explore.) Along the way, there’s even unexpected praise for the Justice Department’s Computer Crime Section, which has produced a valuable framework for vulnerability disclosure programs.

As always The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Send your questions, suggestions for interview candidates or topics to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com or leave a message at +1 202 862 5785.

Download the 185th Episode (mp3).

Subscribe to The Cyberlaw Podcast here. We are also on iTunes, Pocket Casts, and Google Play (available for Android and Google Chrome)!

The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of the firm.

Direct download: TheCyberlawPodcast-185.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:04pm EST

Today’s news roundup features Shane Harris of the Wall Street Journal, Brian Egan, and Alan Cohn discussing stories that Shane wrote last week. Out of the box, we work through the hall of mirrors that the Kaspersky hacking story has become.

The Russian hacking story is biting more companies than just Kaspersky. Turns out that Twitter deleted all the Russian trolling accounts and tweets when the Russians asked them to. Because privacy! I put in a plug for the rule that privacy always somehow ends up protecting the powerful – in this case Vladimir Putin and, of course, Twitter itself.

We also cover another Wall Street Journal story detailing North Korea’s use of (another) antivirus product to hack South Korea’s military – and US war plans. 

Alan unpacks the Trump Administration’s most detailed statement to date on law enforcement and technology -- Deputy AG Rosenstein’s far-ranging speech on the topic.

Alan and I also touch on the emerging fight over 702 – and the media’s evergreen and credulous “discovery” that the far left and far right are surprisingly close on surveillance issues.

Alan spells out the case for Kirstjen Nielsen as Homeland Security Secretary, along with what some of her detractors are saying.

While Brian lays out the explosive theory behind the latest effort to tag Google and other social media giants with liability for assisting ISIS.

We close with two short hits.

I ask why, if Pornhub’s technology is that good, they’re starting with facial recognition.

And I can’t help noting that, for a while at least, security icon Apple thought that the best password hint was … the password itself! Thanks, Tim Cook! We’ll keep that in mind the next time you argue that the ability to hack every iPhone on the planet should be left with you and not the FBI.

As always The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Send your questions, suggestions for interview candidates or topics to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com or leave a message at +1 202 862 5785.

Download the 184th Episode (mp3).

Subscribe to The Cyberlaw Podcast here. We are also on iTunes, Pocket Casts, and Google Play (available for Android and Google Chrome)!

The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of the firm.

Direct download: TheCyberlawPodcast-184.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:49am EST