The Cyberlaw Podcast

This is the week when the movement to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act got serious. The Justice Department released a substantive report suggesting multiple reforms. I was positive about many of them (my views here). Meanwhile, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has proposed a somewhat similar set of changes in his bill, introduced this week. Nate Jones and I dig into the provisions, and both of us expect interest from Democrats as well as Republicans. 

The National Security Agency has launched a pilot program to provide secure domain name system (DNS) resolver services for US defense contractors. If that’s such a good idea, I ask, why doesn’t everybody do it, and Nick Weaver tells us they can. Phil Reitinger’s Global Cyberalliance offers Quad9 for this purpose. 

Gus Hurwitz brings us up to date on a host of European cyberlaw developments, from terror takedowns (Reuters, Tech Crunch) to competition law to the rise of a disturbingly unaccountable and self-confident judiciary. Microsoft’s Brad Smith, meanwhile, wins the prize for best marriage of business self-interest and Zeitgeist in the twenty-first century.

Hackers used LinkedIn’s private messaging feature to send documents containing malicious code which defense contractor employees were tricked into opening. Nick points out just what a boon LinkedIn is for cyberespionage (including his own), and I caution listeners not to display their tattoos on LinkedIn.

Speaking of fools who kind of have it coming, Nick tells the story of the now former eBay executives who have been charged with sustained and imaginatively-over-the-top harassment of the owners of a newsletter that had not been deferential to eBay. (Wired, DOJ)

It’s hard to like the defendants in that case, I argue, but the law they’ve been charged under is remarkably sweeping. Apparently it’s a felony to intentionally use the internet to cause substantial emotional distress. Who knew? Most of us who use Twitter thought that was its main purpose. I also discover that special protections under the law are extended not only to prevent internet threats and harassment of service animals but also horses of any kind. Other livestock are apparently left unprotected. PETA, call your office.

Child abusers cheered when Zoom buckled to criticism of its limits on end-to-end encryption, but Nick insists that the new policy offers safeguards for policing misuse of the platform. (Ars Technica, Zoom)

I take a minute to roast Republicans in Congress who have announced that no FISA reauthorization will be adopted until John Durham’s investigation of FISA abuses is done, which makes sense until you realize that the FISA provisions up for reauthorization have nothing to do with the abuses Durham is investigating. So we’re giving international terrorists a break from scrutiny simply because the President can’t keep the difference straight.

Nate notes that a story previewed in April has now been confirmed: Team Telecom is recommending the blocking of a Hong Kong-US undersea cable over national security concerns.

Gus reminds us that a bitter trade fight between the US and Europe over taxes on Silicon Valley services is coming. (Politico, Ars Technica)

Nick and I mourn the complete meltdown of mobile phone contact tracing. I argue that from here on out, some portion of coronavirus deaths should be classified as mechanogenic (caused by engineering malpractice). Nick proposes instead a naming convention built around the Therac-25

And we close with a quick look at the latest data dump from Distributed Denial of Secrets. Nick thinks it’s strikingly contemporaneous but also surprisingly unscandalizing.

Download the 321st 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 their institutions, clients, friends, families, or pets.

Direct download: TheCyberlawPodcast-321.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:58pm EST

Our interview this week is with Chris Bing, a cybersecurity reporter with Reuters, and John Scott-Railton, Senior Researcher at Citizen Lab and PhD student at UCLA. John coauthored Citizen Lab’s report last week on BellTroX and Indian hackers for hire, and Chris reported for Reuters on the same organization’s activities – and criminal exposure – in the United States. The most remarkable aspect of the story is how thoroughly normalized hacking legal and lobbying opponents seems to have become, at least in parts of the US legal and investigative ecosystem. I suggest that instead of a long extradition battle, the US give the head of BellTroX a ticket to the US and a guaranteed income for the next few years as a witness against his customers. 

 

In the news roundup, Nick Weaver tells the remarkable story of how Facebook funded an exploit aimed at taking down a particularly vile online abuser of young girls who was nearly invulnerable because he was using TAILS, the secure, thumb drive-based communication system (Vice, Gizmodo). This is a great story because it really doesn’t fit into any of the stilted narratives into which most internet security stories are usually jammed.

 

Nick also notes Big Tech’s pledge to do more to stop child abuse online. I suggest that only Dr. Evil would be impressed by the amounts of money being invested in the campaign.

 

Well, another week, another Zoom bomb.  Now the company is taking heat because it terminated several Tiananmen Square commemorative Zoom sessions after China complained (NYT, Zoom). David Kris and I don’t think Zoom had much choice about cutting off the Chinese customers.  Terminating the US account holder who organized a session, however, was a bad move – and one that’s since been corrected by the company. 

 

Nate Jones and I square off again for Round 545 on content moderation, spurred this time by reports that Sen. Josh Hawley is drafting legislation inspired by the Trump Administration’s Section 230 EO. Meanwhile several Republican senators are pushing the FCC to act on the order. Nate and I find rare bipartisan common ground on the idea that Congress should require social media companies to take down foreign government online messaging – and maybe work with the US government to stop it at the source.

 

David reports on a fairly (and deservedly) obscure EU cloud independence project. It seems to have been embraced by Microsoft, which I accuse of going full AT&T – embracing government regulation as a competitive differentiator. As if to prove my point, Microsoft announces that it’s getting out of the business of doing facial recognition for the police – until it can persuade Congress to regulate its competitors.  

Why are spies targeting vaccine research? Nate highlights the excellent Risky Biz newsletter analysis of what drives COVID-19 cyberespionage. 

Nick flags the potential significance of ARM wrestling, as the UK chip designer ARM fights its JV partner for control of its Chinese joint venture. Nick also assigns a “moderate” threat label to the latest Universal Plug n Pwn exploit. It’s only moderate because there are so many pwned IOT devices already in a position to DDOS targets of opportunity.

 

In quick hits, I note that Israel has halted its controversial use of intelligence capabilities to monitor the spread of the coronavirus, but the government reserves the right to revive monitoring if a second wave shows up (JPost, Yahoo). Poor Brewster Kahle is looking like an internet hippie who fell asleep at Woodstock and woke up at Altamont. The Internet Archive is ending its program of offering free, unrestricted copies of e-books, but the publishers who sued over that program may decide to keep suing until they’ve broken his entire “digital library” model, and maybe the Internet Archive as well (NYT, Ars Technica). That would be a shame. Finally, you can have a thousand talents, but honesty may not be one of them. Charles Lieber, the Harvard University professor arrested for lying about his lucrative China contracts, has now been indicted on false statement charges. 

Download the 320th 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 their institutions, clients, friends, families, or pets.

Direct download: TheCyberlawPodcast-320.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:03pm EST

Our interview with Ben Buchanan begins with his report on how artificial intelligence may influence national and cybersecurity. Ben’s quick takes: better for defense than offense, and probably even better for propaganda. The best part, in my view, is Ben’s explanation of how to poison the AI that’s trying to hack you—and the scary possibility that China is already poisoning Silicon Valley’s AI.

By popular request, we’ve revisited a story we skipped last week to do a pretty deep dive on the decision (for now) that Capital One can’t claim attorney-client work product privilege in a Mandiant intrusion response report prepared after its breach. Steptoe litigator Charles Michael and I talk about how IR firms and CISOs should respond to the decision, assuming it stands up on appeal.

Maury Shenk notes the latest of about a hundred warnings, this time from Christopher Krebs, the director of DHS’s cybersecurity agency and the head of Britain’s GCHQ, that China’s intelligence service—and every other intelligence service on the planet—seem to be targeting COVID-19 research.

Maury takes us through the week in internet copyright fights. Ideological copyright enforcement meets the world’s dumbest takedown bots as Twitter removes a Trump campaign video tribute to George Floyd due to a copyright claim. The video is still available on Trump’s YouTube channel.

We puzzle over Instagram’s failure to provide a license to users of its embedding API. The announcement could come as an unwelcome surprise to users who believed that embedding images, rather than hosting them directly, provides insulation against copyright claims.

Finally, much as I love Brewster Kahle, I’m afraid that Kahle’s latest move marks his transition from internet hippie to “holy fool”—and maybe a broke one. His Internet Archive, the online library best known for maintaining the Internet Wayback Machine makes scanned copies of books available to the public on terms that resemble a library’s. The setup was arguably legal—and no one was suing—until Kahle decided to let people download more books than his company had paid for. Now he faces an ugly copyright lawsuit.

Speaking of ugly lawsuits, Mark MacCarthy and Paul Rosenzweig comment on the Center for Democracy and Technology’s complaint that Trump violated tech companies’ right to free speech with his executive order on section 230. (Reuters, NYT) I question whether this lawsuit will get far.

This Week in Working the Ref: Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg are facing criticism from users, competitors, civil rights organizations for failing to censor the people those groups hate. (Ars Technica, Politico). Meanwhile, Snap scores points by ending promotion of Trump’s account after concluding his tweets incited violence.

Where is Nate Jones when you need him? He would love this story: A Twitter user sacrificed a Twitter account to show that Trump is treated differently than others by the platform. Of course, the panel notes, that’s pretty much what Twitter says it does.

In quick hits, I serve notice that no one should be surprised if Justice brings an adtech antitrust suit against Google. The Israeli government announces an attack on its infrastructure so late that the press has already identified and attributed its retaliatory cyberattack on Iran’s ports. And somebody pretty good—probably not the Russians, I argue—is targeting industrial firms.

Download the 319th 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 their institutions, clients, friends, families, or pets.

 

Direct download: TheCyberlawPodcast-319.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:50pm EST

This episode features an in-depth (and occasionally contentious) interview with Bart Gellman about his new book, Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State, which can be found on his website and on Amazon. I’m tagged in the book as having been sharply critical of Gellman’s Snowden stories, and I live up to the billing in this interview. He responds to my critique in good part. Gellman offers detailed insights into Edward Snowden’s motives and relationships to foreign governments, as well as how journalism – and journalistic lawyering – is done in the Big Leagues.

Our news roundup focuses heavily on the Trump Administration’s executive order on section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (Wall Street Journal Washington Post). I end up debating all three of my co-panelists – Nate Jones, Nick Weaver, and Evelyn Douek, rejoining us on a particularly good day, given her expertise. We agree to disagree on whether Silicon Valley applies its rules in a fashion that discriminates against conservatives. More interesting is the rough consensus that Silicon Valley’s heavy influence over our speech is worth worrying about and that transparency is one of the better ways to discipline that influence. No one but me is willing to consider the possibility that the executive order represents a good step toward transparency. 

Nate and I find much room to agree, though, on the tragicomedy emerging from the reauthorization of three relatively straightforward FISA provisions. Stay tuned for a House-Senate conference, plus heavy lobbying of the President. 

Nick explains NSA’s outing of Russian military hackers targeting mail relay software (CyberScoop NSA). 

Nate and I cover the latest in US-China decoupling – the FCC and Justice Department enthusiasm for kicking Chinese telecom firms out of the country and, in a possible new front, heavy scrutiny being given to Chinese-built transformers

Evelyn tells us that, as a visa holder, she’s definitely hoping that the courts overturn US rules forcing visa applicants to disclose their social media handles. I predict that her hopes will be dashed.

Finally, Nick explains who needs a “quantum holographic catalyzer” to protect against 5G telecom emissions.  Quick answer: No one.  It’s a fake cure for fake malady

Download the 318th 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 their institutions, clients, friends, families, or pets.

Direct download: TheCyberlawPodcast-318.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:51am EST

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