The Cyberlaw Podcast

We interview Ben Buchanan about his new book, The Hacker and the State: Cyber Attacks and the New Normal of Geopolitics. This is Ben’s second book and second interview on the podcast about international conflict and cyber weapons. It’s safe to say that America’s strategic posture hasn’t improved since his first appearance. We face more adversaries with more tools and a considerably greater appetite for cyber adventurism. Ben recaps some of the stories that were undercovered in the US press when they occurred. The second large attack on Ukraine’s grid, for example, was little noticed during the US election of 2016, but it appears more ominous after a recent analysis of the tools used, and perhaps most importantly, those available to the GRU but not used. 

In the news, Nick Weaver, Gus Hurwitz, and I take a quick pass at the Internet content regulation problem and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. I’ve written that Section 230 needs to be reconsidered, and I predict that the Justice Department, which held a workshop on Section 230 last week, will propose reforms. Gus and I offer two different takes on Facebook’s recent white paper about content moderation. Gus is more a fan of Twitter’s approach. And Nick reminds us that there are some communities on the Internet whose content causes real harm, including to innocent children.

The debate in the US is taking a distinctly European turn, I suggest, which makes Europe’s determination to regulate its way to digital innovation a little less implausible than usual. Maury Shenk outlines the very tentative (and almost certainly out of date before it’s launched) plan for building a European data lake to foster a European AI and digital economy.

Speaking of AI regulation, Elon Musk hasn’t given up on his concerns about the technology’s risks. But the real action in media circles is attacking fairly simple machine learning tools as used by law enforcement and the justice system. I think the attack is wrongheaded and will either result in abandoning tools that can discipline true outliers. Nick thinks the institutionalization of bias is bad enough that giving up such tools may be the better course.

In quick hits, Nick explains how Google’s effort to stamp out ad click fraud can generate a secondary form of criminal extortion. Maury explains the latest flap over Australia’s encryption law; the tl;dr is that nothing is likely to change soon. Gus makes a down payment on an emerging issue: Whether ISPs can defeat Internet privacy laws that affect them by pleading their First Amendment rights. Nick calls BS on the simplest forms of “anonymization” for credit card data now being sold. I highlight a ransomware attack on a US natural gas operator that actually affected operations and is thus a forerunner of future attacks. Nick reminds us that Julian Assange is in court to stop a US extradition bid. And Europe’s data protection advisor is questioning Google’s acquisition of Fitbit.

Download the 301st Episode (mp3).

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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-301.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:28pm EST

In breaking news from 1995, the Washington Post takes advantage of a leaked CIA history paper to retell the remarkable tale of Crypto AG, a purveyor of encryption products to dozens of governments – and allegedly a wholly controlled subsidiary of US and German intelligence. Nick Weaver, Paul Rosenzweig, and I are astonished at the derring-do and unapologetic enthusiasm for intelligence collection. I mean, really: The Pope?

This week’s interview is with Jonathan Reiber, a writer and strategist in Oakland, California, and former Chief Strategy Officer for Cyber Policy and Speechwriter at the Department of Defense, currently senior advisor at Technology for Global Security and visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity. His recent report offers a candid view of strained relations between Silicon Valley and the Pentagon. The interview explores the reasons for that strain, the importance of bridging the gap and how that can best be done.

Nick reports that four PLA members have been indicted over the Equifax breach. He speculates that the US government is sending a message by disclosing a photo of one soldier that appears to have been taken by his own webcam. Paul and I note that China’s motivation for the hack was very likely the assembly of records on Americans not dissimilar to the records we know the Chinese keep on Uighurs – which are extraordinarily detailed and surprisingly artisanal

The arrest of a Bitcoin mixer allows Nick to explain how Bitcoin mixing services work and why they’re illegal.

Paul lays out the potentially serious impact of Amazon’s lawsuit to stop a $10 billion Microsoft-DOD cloud contract. We note that Amazon wants to take testimony from President Trump. Thanks to his Twitter habit, we conclude, that’s not out of the question.

I preview my remarks at a February 19 Justice Department workshops on Section 230. I will reprise my article in Lawfare and the encryption debate with Nick Weaver that inspired it. And I hope to dig as well into the question whether Section 230 provides too much protection for Silicon Valley’s censors. Speaking of which, Jeff Bezos’s company has joined the censors but won’t tell us which books it’s suppressing.

Nick and I give a favorable review to CISA’s new #Protect2020 election strategy. We search for deeper meaning in the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority’s (IANA’s) failure to complete its Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) root key signing ceremony because of… a physical safe. And we all take a moment to mock the latest vote-by-phone snake-oil app seller, Voatz.

Download the 300th 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-300.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:48am EST

The next trade war will be over transatlantic data flows, and it will make the fight with China look like a picnic. That’s the subject of this episode’s interview. The European Court of Justice is poised to go nuclear – to cut off US companies’ access to European customer data unless the US lets European courts and data protection agencies refashion its intelligence capabilities according to standards no European government has ever been required to meet. Maury Shenk and I interview Peter Swire on the Schrems cases that look nearly certain to provoke a transatlantic trade and intelligence crisis. Actually, Maury interviews Peter, and I throw bombs into the conversation. But if ever there were a cyberlaw topic that deserves more bomb-throwing, this is it.

In the News Roundup, David Kris tells us that the trial of alleged Vault7 leaker Joshua Schulte is under way. And the star of the first day is our very own podcast regular, Paul Rosenzweig

If you’re wondering whether more cybersecurity regulation is what the country needs, you should be paying attention to the Pentagon, which has embraced cybersecurity regulation for its contractors. Matthew Heiman reports that DOD isn’t finding the path easy. DOD has released its final cybersecurity plan for contractors, but the audit process needed to enforce it remains a mystery.

That’s SNAKE spelled backwards: David tells us about a new strain of ransomware; ominously, it is targeting industrial control systems. I manage to find a very modest silver lining.

Nate Jones sums up the cybersecurity lessons from the voting debacle in Iowa

Nate also reports on the FCC’s latest half-step toward suing one or more telcos for selling phone-location data.

Matthew covers the Maze ransomware that has ravaged law firms in recent weeks. He argues that it’s only a matter of time before such attacks become dog-bites-man stories.

Matthew also notes that Google and Facebook have apparently dropped plans to terminate their transpacific cable in Hong Kong. US national security concerns seem to have driven the decision. Looks like the Great Decoupling could be spurring a very real physical decoupling.

Nate makes the best of the 2020 version of a Worthwhile Canadian Initiative: The Senate Intel Committee’s third volume of its Russian electoral interference report. It’s sober and responsible and bipartisan – and disappeared from the news cycle overnight.

And to bring you up to speed on past stories: 

  • A Brazilian judge has declined to accept charges against Glenn Greenwald, “for now.” 
  • The poster child for the facial recognition moral panic can’t catch a break: Clearview AI has been hit with cease-and-desist from Google and Facebook.
  • Tag-teaming with Bill Barr, child-welfare activists are attacking Facebook over its encryption plans and what that means for exploited kids. 
  • One of the first CCPA lawsuits has been filed, against Salesforce.
  • And This Week in Silicon Valley content moderation:
    • Letterboxd banned a black libertarian film critic’s reviews.
    • James O’Keefe’s Twitter account was suspended after he named a Bernie Sanders staffer who spoke fondly of gulags and electoral violence.
    • And Twitter banned the widely popular Zero Hedge account after it named a Chinese researcher who it thought might have a role in coronavirus.

Download the 299th 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-299.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:36am EST

Nick Weaver and I debate Sens. Graham and Blumenthal’s EARN IT Act, a proposal to require that social media firms follow best practices on preventing child abuse. If they don’t, they won’t get full Section 230 immunity from liability for recklessly allowing the abuse. Nick thinks the idea is ill-conceived and doomed to fail. I think there’s a core of sense to the proposal, which simply asks that Silicon Valley firms who are reckless about child abuse on their networks pay for the social costs they’re imposing. Since the bill gives the attorney general authority to modify the best practices submitted by a commission of industry, academic, and civic representatives, critics are sure that the final product will reduce corporate incentives to offer end-to-end encryption. 

But before we get to that debate, Gus Hurwitz and I unpack the law and tactics behind Facebook’s decision to pay $550 million to settle a facial recognition class action. And Klon Kitchen and Nick ponder the shocking corruption and coverup alleged in the case of a Harvard chemistry chairman being prosecuted for hiding the large sums he was getting from the Chinese government to boost its research into nanomaterials. 

Klon gives us a feel for just how hard it can be to enforce Iranian sanctions, and the creativity that went into one app developer’s evasion scheme. 

Gus and Nick offer real hope that robocalling will start to get harder, and soon: DOJ has requested restraining orders to stop telephone companies from facilitating fraudulent robocalls; the FTC has put 19 VoIP providers on notice for facilitating robocalls; and SHAKEN/STIR is slowly making it harder to spoof a phone number.

Gus asks a question that had never occurred to me, and certainly not to millions of homeowners who may have committed inadvertent felonies by installing Ring doorbell cameras. It turns out that Ring recordings may be illegal intercepts in states with all-party consent laws. At least that’s what one enterprising New Hampshire defense lawyer is arguing.

First they cock a snook at Brussels, and now this: The UK government is on a roll. It’s proposing an IoT security law that Nick endorses with enthusiasm.

Maryland, not so much: Klon critiques a proposed state law that would make ransomware illegal – and maybe ransomware research, too.

In dog-bites-man news, the United Nations has suffered a breach – probably by a semi-competent government. Which doesn’t narrow things down much, since as Nick observes, everyone but the Germans has probably pwned the UN. And the Germans are just being polite.

A lot of old stories have come back for one more turn on stage: The Russian hacker that the Russian government was afraid would sing if extradited to the US has pleaded guilty here and is probably singing already. Avast has killed Jumpshot, its much-criticized data collection operation. The Bezosphone Saga continues, as Sen. Chris Murphy calls on the DNI and FBI to investigate the hacking allegations, and Bezos’s girlfriend’s brother is suing for defamation. Charges against the Iowa courthouse penetration testers have finally been dropped. LabMD’s Mike Daugherty should probably hang up his cleats. He won a great victory over the FTC, but his racketeering suit against Tiversa and lawyers is officially time-barred. Finally, it turns out that the FBI has been investigating NSO Group since 2017, though without bringing charges, so far. 

Download the 298th 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-298.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:59am EST

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