The Cyberlaw Podcast: Bonus Episode: How Privilege Undermines Cybersecurity

Stewart Baker
Monday, December 19, 2022, 7:38 PM

The latest episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast. 

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

This bonus episode is an interview with Josephine Wolff and Dan Schwarcz, who along with Daniel Woods have written an article with the same title as this post. Their thesis is that breach lawyers have lost perspective in their no-holds-barred pursuit of attorney-client privilege to protect the confidentiality of forensic reports that diagnose the breach. Remarkably for a law review article, it contains actual field research. The authors interviewed all the players in breach response, from the company information security teams, the breach lawyers, the forensics investigators, the insurers and insurance brokers, and more. I remind them of Tracy Kidder’s astute observation that, in building a house, there are three main players—owner, architect, and builder—and that if you get any two of them in the room alone, they will spend all their time bad-mouthing the third. Wolff, Schwarcz, and Woods seem to have done that with the breach response players, and the bad-mouthing falls hardest on the lawyers. 

The main problem is that using attorney-client privilege to keep a breach forensics process confidential is a reach. So, the courts have been unsympathetic. Which forces lawyers to impose more and more restrictions on the forensic investigator and its communications in the hope of maintaining confidentiality. The upshot is that no forensics report at all is written for many breaches (up to 95 percent, Josephine estimates). How does the breached company find out what it did wrong and what it should do to avoid the next breach? Simple. Their lawyer translates the forensic firm’s advice into a PowerPoint and briefs management. Really, what could go wrong?

In closing, Dan and Josephine offer some ideas for how to get out of this dysfunctional mess. I push back. All in all, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had talking about insurance law.

Download the Bonus 435th 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 [email protected]. 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.

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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