Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast

Whether they call it the fitbit or the “Ohsh*t!bit,” governments are learning that the exercise internet of things is giving away their geospatial secrets at a rapid clip. Nick Weaver walks us through what most in the U.S. would call a security disaster—and how it could become an intelligence bonanza. As an example of what can be done, Jeffrey Lewis highlights Taiwan's secret cruise missile command center.

Of course, as soon as authoritarian governments learn to use fitbits to oppress their people, we can expect the European Union and the Wassenaar export control group to slap export controls on them.  Meredith Rathbone reports on the effort to persuade Europe and Wassenaar not to throw the security industry out with the intrusion software. Turns out that progress is being made on both fronts.

Nick and I talk through the latest stories on Russian cyberspying. Meduza and Buzzfeed have a persuasive and dispiriting story about how Eugene Kaspersky might have been forced to cooperate with the Russian FSB. Looking at questions being raised about U.S. firms allowing the Russians to inspect their source code, we conclude that Balkanization of cybersecurity products is a near certainty, with the only question being how many markets there will be.

Speaking of Russia, the Dutch, not prominent among hacking intelligence agencies until now, have apparently counted cybercoup on the Russians.

Meredith and I dig into the latest round in the European Court of Justice between Max Schrems and Facebook. We call it a draw, with special props to Facebook for creativity in arguing that Schrems is no longer a consumer because he’s obviously turned suing Facebook into a profession.

And, in an overdue event, jackpotting coming to an ATM near you.

Finally, in the interview, we talk to Tim Maurer, co-director of the Cyber Policy Initiative and author of the new book, “Cyber Mercenaries: The State, Hackers, and Power.” Tim tells us the hidden story behind his book’s title and then jumps into a fascinating comparative study of how different governments try (or don’t try) to control the hackers they recruit, because it turns out that they all recruit hackers, just in very different ways. Tim points out an increasing fad for having hackers from one country move to another country to ply their trade. (North Koreans to China; Chinese to Africa) and the additional deterrence options this offers the U.S. government.

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 200th 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-200.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:10am EDT

In this guestless episode, Michael Vatis, Markham Erickson, and Nick Weaver join me to round up the news. I explore the final results of the intense jockeying that led to passage of S. 139, which gave Section 702 of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act a new lease on life. The administration did well, weathering the president’s tweets, providing a warrant process for backend searches that will likely be used once a year if that, and—almost without anyone noticing—pulling the unmasking reform provisions from the bill and substituting an Office of the Director of National Intelligence rule. My guess? This was a tactic to make it easier for Dems to support the bill; if so, it worked.

And just in time, as the days after passage brought new whiffs of scandal, from the four-page House Republican memo alleging improprieties in the FBI’s FISA application to wiretap a Trump campaign hanger-on to two cases in which the FBI and NSA destroyed evidence they were supposed to be preserving. Michael Vatis and I cross sword over whether the FISA abuse memo is worth taking seriously or just partisan flak.

Nick and I delve into the gigabytes of hacked data mislaid by another player in the phone hacking game—Lebanese intelligence. Nick wonders whether the data obtained Electronic Frontier Foundation and Lookout violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. I don’t.

The first known death by SWATting has yielded charges; the egregious SWATter for hire, SWauTistic, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Almost as scary is the news that electric system malware is getting remarkably sophisticated, and common.

The Supreme Court will hear argument in the Microsoft Ireland case next month, and there are dozens of amici briefs, including one by Michael Vatis, who lays out his direct appeal to Justice Neil Gorsuch’s property-based view of the fourth amendment.

Matt Green (and Nick Weaver) have some questions for Apple about its moving China cloud data to a third party Chinese cloud provider. I’ve got one too. If treating Taiwan as a separate country from China leads to humiliating penalties for Western companies, does that mean Apple can’t store Taiwanese and Hong Kong users outside China?

And, for once on the podcast, a sweet life-long love story, spelled out cryptographically.

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 199th 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-199_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:21am EDT

It turns out that the most interesting policy story about Kaspersky software isn’t why the administration banned its products from government use; it’s why the last administration didn’t. Shane Harris is our guest for the podcast, delving into the law and politics of the Kaspersky ban. Along the way, I ask why the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which allows suits against foreign governments for some torts committed in the United States, shouldn’t allow suits against foreign governments that hack computers located in the United States.

In the news, the House comfortably adopts a bill to reauthorized 702 surveillance; the Senate is expected to act today as well. While the House bill makes some changes to the law, it endorses the most moderate of the reform proposals.

In case you haven’t heard, Apple is handing off its iCloud operations to a local cloud storage company – with none of the histrionic civil liberties posturing the company displays in the United States. Whose data is being transferred to the tender mercies of Chinese authorities? Who knows? Not Apple, which can’t even send out notices to its customers without getting confused about who’s covered by the new policy.

It’s a “three-peat” for state authority to make online companies collect sales tax from their customers. The Supreme Court has agreed to reconsider a dormant commerce clause doctrine that it has already affirmed twice.

I apologize to Uber for snarking on their “bounty” payment of $100,000 to a hacker who exposes a serious security flaw and gained access to large amounts of personal data. A good New York Times article demonstrates that the decision to pay up was at least plausibly justified. But as if to demonstrate why the company never gets the benefit of the doubt, Bloomberg reports on Uber’s latest scofflaw-ware scandal. Luckily for journalists everywhere, Uber continues to adopt colorfully damaging nicknames for its scofflaware. In this case their product locked or deleted data sought by local law enforcement with the touch of a panic button. It was named, of course, after Sigourney Weaver’s character, Ripley, who declared that the only way to deal with an alien-infested installation was to “nuke it from orbit.”

Sheila Jackson-Lee gets an admiring mention for winning House passage of a cyber vulnerability disclosure bill that is probably nuanced enough to be adopted by the Senate as well.

And Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein makes a short pitch for “responsible” encryption that actually manages to move the debate forward a step.

Talk about 21st century warfare. Russia is claiming it fought off swarms of drones with cyberweapons. As Nick Weaver points out, that’s just the beginning.

Brian assesses the state of CFIUS reform legislation and the claim that Sen. Cornyn’s bill would result in CFIUS’s regulation of technology transfers that would be better addressed through export controls.

Finally, having already critiqued Apple and Uber, I feel obliged to offer equal time to Twitter, which remarkably can’t even identify advertisements that invite users to log on to fake Twitter sites and steal their credentials. If you want to understand the worst of Silicon Valley, I argue, you shouldn’t look to the big rich companies; it’s the struggling would-be unicorns who show what the Valley really cares about. And security ain’t it. Speaking of which, where is that Ad Transparency Center that Twitter promised any day now back in the fall of 2017?

 

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 198th 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-198.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:50pm EDT

While the U.S. was transfixed by posturing over the Trump presidency, China has been building the future. Chances are you’ll find one part of that future–social credit scoring–both appalling in principle and irresistible in practice. That at least is the lesson I draw from our interview of Mara Hvistendahl, National Fellow at New America and author of the definitive article on the allure, defects and mechanics of China’s emerging social credit system.

In the news roundup, Nick Weaver dives deep on the Spectre and Meltdown security vulnerabilities while I try to draw policy and litigation implications from the debacle. TL;DR -this is bad, but the class actions will settle for pennies. Oh, and xkcd has all you need to know.

I note that U.S. Customs and Border Protection under Trump has imposed new limitations on border searches of electronic devices. So naturally the press is all “Trump has stepped up border searches aggressively.” No good deed unpunished, as they say.

Maury Shenk explains President Emmanuel Macron’s latest plans to regulate cyberspace in the name of fighting Russian electoral interference and fake news. The Germans, meanwhile, have begun implementing their plan to fight hate speech on the internet. Predictably, it looks as though hate speech is winning.

In the litigation outrage of the month, a company called Keeper, a password manager developer, got caught distributing software with a security flaw. So they did what any security-conscious company would–they sued the website that publicized the flaw for libel. It’s a crappy suit, and we should all hope they end up assessed with costs and fees. But the real question is this: Google found and disclosed the flaw, while Microsoft distributed Keeper to its users. When will they file as amici to say that no company with a mature security model files STFU libel suits against people who point out legitimate security problems? TL;DR–Keeper: Loser.

Finally, Hal Martin pleads guilty to one of twenty-plus counts and takes a ten-year sentence. So far, so ordinary in the world of plea bargaining. But as Nick points out, this wasn’t a bargain. Martin can still be tried and sentenced on all the other counts. And it effectively stipulates the maximum sentence for the one count he’s pleading guilty to. There must be a strategy here, but we can’t say for sure what it is.

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 197th 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-197.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:51pm EDT

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