The Cyberlaw Podcast

Brad Smith is President of Microsoft and author (with Carol Ann Browne) of Tools and Weapons: The Promise and Peril of the Digital Age.” The book is a collection of vignettes of the tech policy battles in the last decade or so. Smith had a ringside seat for most of them, and he recounts what he learned in a compelling and good-natured way in the book—and in this episode’s interview. Starting with the Snowden disclosures and the emotional reaction of Silicon Valley, through the CLOUD Act, Brad Smith and Microsoft displayed a relatively even keel while trying to reflect the interests of its many stakeholders. In that effort, Smith makes the case for more international cooperation in regulating digital technology. Along the way, he discloses how the Cyberlaw Podcast’s own Nate Jones and Amy Hogan-Burney became “Namy,” achieving a fame and moniker inside Microsoft that only Brangelina has achieved in the wider world. Finally, he sums up Microsoft’s own journey in the last quarter century as a recognition that humility is a better long-term strategy than hubris.

Turning to the news, it looks like the surveillance renewal debate will be pushed to March 15 instead of Dec. 15. That’s thanks to impeachment, David Kris assesses. We summarize what’s up for renewal before turning to the hottest of FISA topics: The Justice Department’s inspector general report on bias in the FBI’s investigation of the Trump-Russia connection in 2016. All we’re getting at this point is self-serving leaks, but it sounds as though the report is finding real misbehavior only in the lower rungs of the Bureau. The IG finds no political bias at the top, but criminal charges against one lawyer look possible.

David sums up China’s Vulnerability Equities Process: “You can disclose the vulns when MSS is done using them.”

Nick Weaver, meanwhile, tells us that China’s dependence on U.S.-origin AI frameworks is more a matter of bragging rights rather than real disadvantage—unless you think that being unable to deny access to GitHub is a real disadvantage. And if you’re Xi Jinping, you might.

Nate Jones, already immortalized as the quiet half of Namy, reveals that Iran’s APT33 is targeting industrial control systems—and that Iran has shut down its Internet for several days in the face of civil unrest. I suggest that we keep track of the regime-essential links that stay up—so we can take them down if Iran decides to use its new upstream access to industrial control systems.

Nate and I ask why a majority of the UN General Assembly bought into a Russian proposal for a “cybercrime” resolution. Hint: Many of the governments that support it couldn’t survive a democratic election and a free press.

Speaking of Russians, Nick flags a Brian Krebs explainer on why the Russians really, really didn’t want their accused cybercriminal extradited from Israel to the US.

David and I gape in wonder at the chutzpah of the Indiana police force that accused a suspected drug dealer of theft for removing a police GPS tracker from his car—and then used that theft to justify a search of his home.

And in quick hits, Nick covers the new Russian law that prohibits sale of devices without preinstalled “alternative” software. And Nick and I debate the value and legality of Uber’s plan to introduce audio recordings during rides.

 

Join Steptoe for a complimentary webinar on Tuesday, Dec. 10. We’ll be talking about the impacts on retailers of the newly implemented California Consumer Privacy Act and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. This is a fast-moving area of the law; we can keep you up to date. You can find out more and register here.

 

Download the 289th Episode (mp3).

You can subscribe to The Cyberlaw Podcast using iTunesGoogle PlaySpotifyPocket Casts, or our RSS feed!

As always, The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Be sure to engage with @stewartbaker on Twitter. Send your questions, comments, and suggestions for topics or interviewees to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com. Remember: If your suggested guest 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-289.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:56am EST

This Week in Mistrusting Google: Klon Kitchen points to a Wall Street Journal story about all the ways Google tweaks its search engine to yield results that look machine-made but aren’t. He and I agree that most of these tweaks have understandable justifications – but you have to trust Google not to misuse them. And increasingly no one does. The same goes for Google’s foray into amassing and organizing health data on millions of Americans. It’s a nothingburger with mayo, unless you mistrust Google. Since mistrusting Google is a growth industry, it’s getting a lot of attention, including from HHS investigators. Matthew Heiman explains, and when he’s done, my money is on Google surviving that investigation comfortably. The capital of mistrusting Google is Brussels, and not surprisingly, Maury Shenk tells us that the EU has forced Google to modify its advertising protocols to exclude data on health-related sites visited by its customers.

A Massachusetts federal district court says suspicionless device searches at borders are not okay. Matthew and I dig into the details. Bottom line: Requiring reasonable suspicion for electronics searches isn’t a tough standard, but reason to believe the phone contains contraband is likely to stop a lot of searches. But that’s only good news for US citizens. Foreign travelers’ phones can also be searched if there’s reason to believe they contain evidence relevant to whether they should be admitted to the country, and reasonable suspicion that such evidence will be found is not hard to come by.

The US Supreme Court will be deciding whether APIs can be copyrighted (or whether copying them is fair use). I put my Supreme Court maven cred on the line, predicting that the Court is going to reverse the federal circuit and reject Oracle’s claim that it can extract hefty rent payments from Google for Android’s use of Oracle APIs.

An injunction against disseminating violent and inciting speech is causing angst in Hong Kong. Maury explains why.

Klon unpacks the story of the Chinese hackers who’ve been spying on the US National Association of Manufacturers

Maury and I throw shade at the federal court’s claim that it’s arbitrary and capricious for the Trump Administration to conclude that it couldn’t really administer an export control ban on the release of 3D gun plans. 

In a lightning round, no one should be surprised that Microsoft is making CCPA the law of the land. Nor that Amazon sells a lot of stuff directly from China. Or, frankly, that the hullabaloo over “sophisticated” DDoS attacks on British political parties is just campaign grist.

Download the 288th Episode (mp3).

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

As always, The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Be sure to engage with @stewartbaker on Twitter. Send your questions, comments, and suggestions for topics or interviewees to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com. Remember: If your suggested guest 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-288.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:17pm EST

The Foreign Agent Registration Act is having a moment – in fact its best year since 1939, as the Justice Department charges three people with spying on Twitter users for Saudi Arabia. Since they were clearly acting like spies but not stealing government secrets or company intellectual property, FARA seems to be the only law that they could be charged with violating. Nate Jones and I debate whether the Justice Department can make the charges stick.

Nick Weaver goes off on NSO Group for its failure to supervise the way its customers intrude on cell phone contents. I’m less sure that NSO deserves its bad rap, and I wonder whether WhatsApp should have compromised what looks like 1100 legitimate law enforcement investigations because it questions 100 other uses of NSO malware.

Speaking of Facebook’s judgment, Paul Rosenzweig and I turn out to be surprisingly sympathetic to the company’s stand on political ads and whether “Mama Facebook” should decide their truthfulness. Twitter, darling of the press, has gotten away with a no-political-ads stance that is at least as problematical.

Nate, Paul, and I go pretty far down the rabbit hole arguing whether search warrants should give police access to DNA databases.

The National Security Commission on Artificial intelligence has published its interim report, and Nick, Nate, and I can’t really quarrel with its contents, except to complain that it doesn’t break a lot of new ground.

And maybe all this AI is still a little overrated. Remember that AI fake news text generator that OpenAI claimed was “too dangerous to release”? Well it’s been released, and it turns out to be bone stupid. We test it live, and the results would have to have been a lot better to scratch their way up to “underwhelming.”

Nick tells us why nobody who ever worked with the US government should even change planes in Russia these days.

And in a lightning round, Paul and I ask when blowing off Congress became a thing anybody could do. Nick dumps on both sides in the Great DOH debate. Ted Cruz has called out USTR for sticking Section 230 into trade deals.

And This Week in Pew! Pew! Pew! It really is the 21st Century now that we’re using lasers to attack computers. Nick explains how to order fifty copies of Skating on Stilts using your neighbor’s Amazon account and a laser.

Download the 287th Episode (mp3).

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

As always, The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Be sure to engage with @stewartbaker on Twitter. Send your questions, comments, and suggestions for topics or interviewees to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com. Remember: If your suggested guest 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-287.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:06pm EST

This episode is a wide-ranging interview with Andy Greenberg, author of Sandworm: A New Era of Cyberwar and the Hunt for the Kremlin’s Most Dangerous Hackers. The book contains plenty of original reporting, served up with journalistic flair. It digs deep into some of the most startling and destructive cyberattacks of recent years, from two dangerous attacks on Ukraine’s power grid, to the multibillion-dollar NotPetya, and then to a sophisticated but largely failed effort to bring down the Seoul Olympics and pin the blame on North Korea. Apart from sophisticated coding and irresponsibly indiscriminate targeting, all these episodes have one thing in common. They are all the work of Russia's GRU.

Andy persuasively sets out the attribution and then asks what kind of corporate culture supports such adventurism – and whether there is a strategic vision behind the GRU’s attacks. The interview convinced me at least that the GRU is pursuing a strategy of muscular nihilism – "our system doesn't work, but yours too is based on fragile illusions." It's a kind of global cyber intifada, with all the dangers and all the self-defeating tactics of the original intifadas. Don't disagree until you've listened!

Download the 286th Episode (mp3).

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

As always, The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Be sure to engage with @stewartbaker on Twitter. Send your questions, comments, and suggestions for topics or interviewees to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com. Remember: If your suggested guest 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-286.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:52pm EST

We open the episode with David Kris’s thoughts on the two-years-late CFIUS investigation of TikTok, its Chinese owner, ByteDance, and ByteDance’s US acquisition of the lip-syncing company Musical.ly. Our best guess is that this unprecedented reach-back investigation will end in a more or less precedented mitigation agreement.

I cover the WhatsApp suit against NSO Group over the use of spyware on WhatsApp’s network. I predict that this is going to be a highwire act given the applicable precedents on whether violating terms of service also violates the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. I also muse on whether NSO will find ways to make this a much less comfortable lawsuit for WhatsApp to pursue.

I award the ACLU the prize for making a PR and fundraising mountain out of a molehill of a lawsuit. Matthew Heiman and I try to decide which took less effort – cutting and pasting the ACLU’s generic FOIA complaint or cutting and pasting the ACLU’s generic “Oh my God, it’s a surveillance dystopia” press release. 

I comment on a heart-warming story about a geek in Normal, Illinois, who runs the most successful ransomware-rescue site in the world – and is going broke doing it. Advice to DHS’s CISA: Why not sponsor prizes for people who post ransomware decryptors with real impact? 

Mark MacCarthy discusses the guidance provided by the Defense Innovation Board on building ethical AI. I complain that political correctness seems to outweigh things like, you know, winning wars.

Matthew tells us that Israel is creating its own CFIUS-like panel, and we note the longstanding tension between the US and Israel over Chinese access to Israeli technology.

David notes more decoupling: The Interior Department has grounded its entire drone fleet, citing the risk from Chinese manufacturers.

Mark and I find common ground in thinking the Facebook got the political ad censorship question more right than wrong. Twitter rises to the challenge, naturally. 

Matthew fills us in on a story suggesting that North Korea breached an Indian nuclear plant’s network. He and I also briefly note that Georgia was the victim of a massive case of cyber vandalism.

In updates of past stories, I cover Coalfire’s persuasive critique of the sheriff who arrested the company’s pentesters in an Iowa courthouse. In another even longer-running story, the latest and perhaps the last word on the LabMD-Tiversa-FTC imbroglio can be found in an excellent New Yorker story that leaves LabMD looking good, the FTC looking bad, and Tiversa looking like a candidate for criminal prosecution. Finally, David updates the story of the 2016 Uber hack that cost the company’s chief security officer his job. It’s also going to cost the hackers their freedom, as they plead guilty to CFAA violations. 

Download the 285th Episode (mp3).

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

As always, The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Be sure to engage with @stewartbaker on Twitter. Send your questions, comments, and suggestions for topics or interviewees to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com. Remember: If your suggested guest 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-285.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:31am EST

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