The Cyberlaw Podcast: Dumpster Fire in Cyberspace

Stewart Baker
Wednesday, September 23, 2020, 1:21 PM

The latest episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast.

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

John Yoo, Mark MacCarthy, and I kick off episode 329 of the Cyberlaw Podcast diving deep into what I call the cyberspace equivalent of a dumpster fire. There is probably a pretty good national security case for banning TikTok. In fact, China did a lot better than the Trump administration when it declared, “You know that algorithm that tells all your kids what to watch all day? That’s actually a secret national security asset of the People’s Republic.” But the administration’s process for addressing the national security issue was unable to keep up with President Trump’s eagerness to announce some kind of deal. The haphazard and easily stereotyped process probably also contributed to the casual decision of a magistrate in San Francisco to brush aside US national security interests in the WeChat case, postponing the order on dubious first amendment grounds that John Yoo rightly takes to task.

Megan Stifel tells us that the bill for decoupling from China is going to be high – up to $50 billion if you listen to the Semiconductor Industry Association.

Speaking of big industry embracing big government, Pete Jeydel explains IBM’s slightly jarring suggestion that the government should slap export controls on a kind of face recognition technology that Big Blue doesn’t sell any more. Actually, when you put it like that, it kind of explains itself.

Megan tells us that the House has passed a bill on the security of Internet of Things devices. The bill, which has also moved pretty far in the Senate, is pretty modest, setting only standards for what the federal government will buy, but Megan has hopes that it will prove to be the start of a broader movement to address IoT security.

I reprise three of the latest demonstrations of just how much Silicon Valley hates conservatives and how far it will go to suppress their speech. My favorite is Facebook deciding that a political ad that criticizes transgender women competing in women’s sports must be taken down because it lacks context. Unlike every other political ad since the beginning of time. Although Twitter’s double standard for a “manipulated media” label is pretty rich too: Turns out that splicing Trump’s remarks to make him say what the Biden camp is sure he meant is fair comment, but splicing a Biden interview so he says what the Trump camp is sure he meant is Evil Incarnate.

Finally, Megan rounds out the week with a host of hacker news. The North Koreans are in bed with Russian cybercrime gangs. (I can’t help wondering who wakes up with fleas.) The Iranians are stealing 2FA codes and some of them were indicted, though not apparently for the 2FA exploit. And a long-running Chinese cybergang is indicted too. Not that that will actually stop them, but it could be hard on their Malaysian accomplices, who are in jail, contemplating the value of government top cover.

Our interview this week is with Michael Brown, a remarkably influential defense technologist. He’s been CEO of Symantec, co-wrote the report that led to the passage of FIRRMA and the transformation of CFIUS and now runs the Defense Innovation Unit in Silicon Valley. He explains what DIU does and some of the technological successes it has already made possible.

And more!

Oh, and we have new theme music, courtesy of Ken Weissman of Weissman Sound Design. Hope you like it!

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.

Subscribe to Lawfare