The Cyberlaw Podcast: Black Swans, Black Ops, BlackCube and Red Herrings

Stewart Baker
Tuesday, February 5, 2019, 5:35 PM

In this episode, I interview Chris Bing and Joel Schectman about their remarkable stories covering the actions of what amount to U.S. cyber-mercenary hackers.

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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In this episode, I interview Chris Bing and Joel Schectman about their remarkable stories covering the actions of what amount to U.S. cyber-mercenary hackers. We spare a moment of sympathy for one of those hackers, Lori Stroud, who managed to go from hiring Edward Snowden to hacking for the UAE in the space of a few years.

In the news, I ask my partner Phil Khinda whether the $29 million Yahoo breach settlement is a new front in breach derivative litigation or a black swan. He says it’s more of a red herring—and explains why.

This week in black ops: I ask Nate Jones to comment on the tradecraft used in an apparent effort to smear Citizen Lab for its reports on NSO. My take: This feels a lot like what BlackCube did for Harvey Weinstein, except that this was the budget version.

The Russians are so far from being shamed for their hacking that now they’re faking it. Dr. Megan Reiss notes Special Counsel Mueller’s recent claim that Russians are leaking discovery materials and pretending they came from a hack of the counsel’s office. We are reminded of the Russians’ recent unveiling of a remarkably adroit robot that turned out to be a man in a robot suit.

Maury Shenk and I discuss Google’s latest imitation of Apple’s “law enforcement lockout” feature and its claim that hurting law enforcement was “unintended side effect.”

Maury also notes the flap over a flaw in Apple’s FaceTime that allows for eavesdropping. Predictably, New York State is investigating.

And in possibly related news, Apple went out of its way to publicly embarrass Facebook and Google over their use of corporate certificates to sideload apps that recorded the browsing habits of paid volunteers.

Quick hits:

This week in dogs biting men: Ukraine says Russia is trying to disrupt its upcoming election, and the Pentagon is reportedly failing to stay ahead of cyber threats. Megan covers the first and Nate the second.

I offer one and a half cheers for Japan’s pioneering and mildly intrusive survey of bot-vulnerable IoT devices.

Finally, EPIC et al. are calling on FTC to impose a $2 billion fine, structural changes and more on Facebook, claiming that “the algorithmic bias of the [Facebook] news feed reflects a predominantly Anglo, male world view.” If you still need evidence that privacy law is the legal equivalent of a Twitter mob—an always-ready tool for punishing unpopular views—EPIC’s filing should be all you need.

Download the 249th Episode (mp3).

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

Stewart A. Baker is a partner in the Washington office of Steptoe & Johnson LLP. He returned to the firm following 3½ years at the Department of Homeland Security as its first Assistant Secretary for Policy. He earlier served as general counsel of the National Security Agency.

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