The Cyberlaw Podcast

I interview David Sanger in this episode on his new book, “The Perfect Weapon – War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age.” It is an instant history of how the last five years have transformed the cyberwar landscape as dozens of countries follow a path first broken by Stuxnet. And then, to our horror, branch out into new and highly successful ways of waging cyberwar. Mostly against us.  David depicts an Obama administration paralyzed by the Rule of Lawyers and a fear that our opponents would always have one more rung than we did on the escalation ladder. The Trump administration also takes its lumps, sometimes fairly and sometimes not. At center stage in the book is Putin’s uniquely brazen and uniquely impactful use of information warfare, but the North Koreans and the Chinese also play major roles.  It is as close to frontline war reporting as cyber conflict is likely to get.

Stewart Baker with David Sanger.

Stewart Baker with David Sanger

Cyberlaw news this week is dominated by a couple of Supreme Court decisions: In Carpenter the Court held 5-4 that warrants are required to collect a week of location data from cell phone companies. Michael Vatis lays out the ruling, and I complain that the Court has kicked off a generation of litigation over the issues this decision opens up but fails to address. Tune in as Michael invokes James Madison and I counter with Ben Franklin. Who knew that the founding fathers had so much to say about the third-party doctrine?

Speaking of Court decisions that write checks for others to redeem, the 5-4 Wayfair decision is equally insouciant about triggering a generation of litigation about when internet companies must collect sales tax. After 50 years of waiting for Congress to decide a question that is clearly better resolved by legislation than judicial rule, the Court gave up and struck down the holding that a physical presence was required before sales tax had to be collected. Pat Derdenger explains just how much litigation he’ll be involved in. To his plea that Congress step in, I repeat a line I first used 25 years ago: Why should a Republican Congress enable the collection of taxes it can’t spend?

North Korea may be our president’s best bud these days, but it’s still hacking banks and conducting cyberespionage, Matthew Heiman points out. Jim Lewis advances a Darwinian justification for letting the North Koreans keep it up.

Matthew and Jim also agree that Chinese hackers are getting stealthier—probably in part because they’re chiseling around the edges of their agreement not to steal commercial secrets from US firms. We also ask whether the Chinese have begun releasing data from their OPM hack to criminal actors.

David Sanger thinks not.

Our lack of a coherent cyberwar strategy is becoming apparent not just to adversaries but also to Congress, which is in the process of mandating a new commission on cyberwar strategy. Whether calling it Project Solarium, a hallowed name in defense thinking, will make the commission more successful remains to be seen.

The Administration is struggling to come up with privacy principles that can compete with GDPR. Matthew and I predict that it won’t succeed.

One last note: David Sanger is on a book tour—if you’re in the Washington, D.C. area, he will be hosting a talk and book signing at Politics & Prose on Thursday, June 28, at 7pm.

Download the 223rd Episode (mp3).

You can subscribe to The Cyberlaw Podcast using iTunes, Pocket Casts, Google Play, or our RSS feed!

As always, The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Send your questions, comments, and suggestions for topics or interviewees to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com or leave a message at +1 202 862 5785. Remember: If your suggested interviewee appears on the show, we will send you a highly coveted Cyberlaw Podcast mug!

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

Direct download: TheCyberlawPodcast-223.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:21am EST

Our interview is with Megan Stifel, whose paper for Public Knowledge offers a new way of thinking about cybersecurity measures, drawing by analogy on the relative success of sustainability initiatives in spurring environmental consciousness. She holds up pretty well under my skeptical questioning. 

In this week’s news, Congress and the executive branch continue to fight over the bleeding body of ZTE, which has already lost nearly 40 percent of its market value. The Commerce Department has extracted a demanding compliance and penalty package from the Chinese telecom equipment manufacturer. The Senate, meanwhile, has amended the NDAA to overturn the package and reimpose what amounts to a death penalty (see Section 1727). Brian Egan and I dig into the Senate’s language and conclude that it may do a lot less than the senators think it does—that may be the best news ZTE is going to get from Washington this year. 

Judge Richard Leon has approved the AT&T-Time Warner merger. Gus Hurwitz puts the ruling in context. His lesson: Next time, the Justice Department needs better evidence.

Brian gives us an update on what’s not in the CFIUS reform bill now that the CFIUS reform bill is in the NDAA and on its way to adoption. I suggest that the bill is a symptom of a new “Cool War,” and the beginning of a long, slow process of breaking the commercial world back into competing blocs. Complete with mirror-imaging, as both China and Pentagon start publishing lists of the technologies they expect to use in the burgeoning competition.

Kaspersky Labs is getting a lesson in Cool War-bloc dynamics, as the EU Parliament trashes the company as a malicious actor and the company acts out, terminating its cybersecurity arrangements with EU institutions.

Megan Stifel and I explore what it means that Chinese hackers are apparently back to their old tricks—stealing competitive secrets for commercial advantage. 

Given a choice between EFF and the EU, I come down on the EFF’s side, at least when the EU is snuggling up to Big Copyright and forcing internet companies to automatically scan customer-uploads for copyright violations. This is bad news for users, of course, since the tools are never perfect, and the incentives will be to err on the side of preventing speech. But, really, EU, if you were wondering why you’ll never have a vibrant tech startup scene, it’s time to look in the mirror. This measure may sound as though it will be tough on YouTube, but it will be fatal to its smaller competitors.

But surely, you say, the owners of intellectual property will be constrained by the need to keep their consumers happy. Yeah, right. If you believe that, you might want to take a closer look at the astonishing surveillance system that intellectual-property owners have dreamed up in Spain. At least nothing so intrusive could be done in Europe, where GDPR has created a privacy utopia …

More Cool War casualties: U.S. sanctions on Russia have hit a couple of companies that Silicon Valley thought of as friends and neighbors. This dividing-into-blocs business has some surprising costs. Brian, of course, wants to know how to square these sanctions with President Trump’s view of Russia. I supply the answer (two, actually), but you’ll have to listen to find out what they are.

Gus Hurwitz plugs his new privacy paper, which pantses privacy campaigners for hypocrisy. 

Gus also comments on Apple’s new USB-restricted mode, which law-enforcement support-contractors say they’ve already defeated.

In the good news of the week, the Southern Poverty Law Center gets a comeuppance in the form of an unconditional apology and $3.4 million libel settlement for including Maajid Nawaz in its nasty and irresponsible 2016 “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists.” If you’re keeping score at home, that’s $3.37 million down, $429 million to go before SPLC’s grotesquely swollen endowment is used up.

Speaking of comeuppances, I get mine for correcting Jennifer Quinn-Barabanov’s pronunciation of cy près as “sigh pray.” I’m a “see pray” guy. Alert listener Tim White decided to call up Brian Garner of “Garner’s Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage” for a ruling. In a moment straight out of a Woody Allen film, Garner responds through an editor that “Professor Garner is editing the entries in Black’s and Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage to reflect that /sigh/ is the traditional anglicized pronunciation and that /see/ is a repatriated French pronunciation. So both pronunciations will be listed, but /sigh/ will be listed first as the preferred one.” Short version: I’m condemned as an egregious grammar snob who doesn’t know a repatriated French pronunciation when he sees one. I think I owe Jennifer Quinn-Barabanov an apology—and $3.37.

You can subscribe to The Cyberlaw Podcast using iTunes, Pocket Casts, Google Play, or our RSS feed

As always, The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Send your questions, comments, and suggestions for topics or interviewees to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com or leave a message at +1 202 862 5785. Remember: If your suggested interviewee appears on the show, we will send you a highly coveted Cyberlaw Podcast mug!

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

Direct download: PC222.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:21pm EST

The 11th Circuit’s LabMD decision is a dish served cold for Michael Daugherty, the CEO of the defunct company. The decision overturns decades of FTC jurisdiction, acquired over the years by a kind of bureaucratic adverse possession. Thanks to the LabMD opinion, practically all the FTC’s privacy and security consent decrees are at risk of being at least partly unenforceable—and if the dictum holds, the FTC may have to show that everything it views as an “unfair” lack of security is actually a negligent security practice.

Commerce says it has a deal with ZTE. Nate Jones wonders whether the bipartisan opposition to the deal from Congress is too late.

David Kris introduces a remarkable week for Justice Department responses to leaks of classified information. A long-time security director at the Senate intelligence committee succumbs first to the wiles of an aspiring reporter, and then to the temptation to lie about the romance to the FBI. James Wolfe will pay a heavy price for his leaks of classified information—without ever being tried for leaking classified information.

I can’t help asking how the FBI gathered as much information as they did from supposedly secure services like Signal and WhatsApp. Nick Weaver and David point to metadata as the fatal flaw in Wolfe’s security—and to cloud backup as the fatal flaw in Manafort’s (along with the problem that any secret shared with another is a hostage to that party’s inclinations).

The Chinese are having a hell of a run at U.S. secrets, David also reports, as evidenced by an espionage arrest, another espionage conviction, and a major story about another Chinese hack of Pentagon technology. The arrest of Hansen, who was in money trouble, may turn out to be the first fruits harvested by the Chinese from their trove of Office of Personnel Management files listing all the weaknesses of U.S. clearance holders.

The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security want new authority to regulate drones. Nick is supportive and offers some exciting and chilling video to support his view that drones will soon pose a wide variety of threats.

Nate reports on the Democrats’ effort to get a threat assessment of President Trump’s phone use.

Speaking of things we really need to worry about more, Nick tells us the Russian’s VPNFilter is worse than we thought, and we already thought it was bad. It’s time to take the security of your home router very seriously. 

I close with a quick rant, calling out Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Amazon for all accepting advice on who is a “hate” group from the irresponsible and irredeemably biased Southern Poverty Law Center. Really, guys, if you want half the country to hate Silicon Valley, this is exactly what you should be doing.

Download the 221st Episode (mp3).

You can subscribe to The Cyberlaw Podcast using iTunes, Pocket Casts, Google Play, or our RSS feed!

As always, The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Send your questions, comments, and suggestions for topics or interviewees to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com or leave a message at +1 202 862 5785. Remember: If your suggested interviewee appears on the show, we will send you a highly coveted Cyberlaw Podcast mug! 

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

Direct download: PC221.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:17pm EST

GDPR has finally arrived, Maury Shenk reminds us, bringing both expected and unexpected consequences. Among the expected: New Schrems lawsuits for more money from the same old defendants; and the wasting away of the cybersecurity resource that is the WHOIS database, as German courts ride to the rescue of insecurity—in the name of privacy.

Also probably to be expected, at least for those who have paid attention to the history of technology regulation: The biggest companies are likely to end up boosting their market dominance.

Less expected: The decision of some big U.S. media to just say no to European readers, recognizing them as the Typhoid Marys of the internet, carrying a painful and stupid regulatory infection to every site they visit.

In other unsurprising news, Gus Hurwitz and Megan Reiss note, Kaspersky has now lost both its lawsuits against U.S. government bans in a single district court ruling.

In genuinely troubling news, Iran is signaling a willingness to attack U.S. industrial controls, which run the electric grid and pipelines and sewage systems, using the same malware it used against the Saudis. Since Iran was willing to launch DDoS attacks on U.S. banks the last time negotiations over its nuclear program hit a snag, this is a threat that needs to be taken seriously.

The good news is that the U.S. government released two reports this week on how to we’ll respond to both threats—cyberattacks on our grid and to DDoS attacks on our web companies. The bad news is that both reports suck. If you were feeling optimistic before this, I argue, a close reading of the reports will leave you with a sinking feeling that this is the fourth administration in a row without a clue about how to deal with such attacks.

Quick Hits

Russia wants Apple’s help in subduing Telegram, Maury reports. I predict that Tim Cook will fold like a cheap lawn chair. I’m guessing that it’s really only American law enforcement that he’s willing to thwart.

North Korea is getting credit for peacemaking while spreading malware to U.S. infrastructure. A lot of the attacks are enabled by phishing emails with news about the Trump-Kim summit. Which, come to think of it, may be the real reason Kim keeps turning the summit off and on: He’s got to generate clickbait for all those phishing emails.

Trump wants to relieve ZTE of its company-killing Commerce sanctions, but Congress may not let him. Hardest hit? Paul Ryan, who’ll have to decide whether to let the House take a free vote to thwart the President on national security grounds. At least that’s my quick assessment.

Gus takes us quickly through the next big security issueIMSI catchers and SS7 exploitation. This is a big problem, or really two big problems, that is bound to get real media attention—just as soon as civil liberties groups figure out how to blame it on Trump.

In other news, I’ll be hosting a Reddit AMA on r/legaladvice on June 6 starting at 2 p.m. EST. The best questions may be read in the next episode, so be sure to contribute. You can find more information in the announcement here.

You can subscribe to The Cyberlaw Podcast using iTunesPocket CastsGoogle Play, or our RSS feed!

As always, The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Send your questions, comments, and suggestions for topics or interviewees to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com or leave a message at +1 202 862 5785. Remember: If your suggested interviewee appears on the show, we will send you a highly coveted Cyberlaw Podcast mug!

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

Direct download: PC_220.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:32am EST

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