The Cyberlaw Podcast: Hats off to the French! (And I Don’t Say that Often.)

Stewart Baker
Wednesday, July 8, 2020, 10:20 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

In the News Roundup, Dave Aitel (@daveaitel), Mark MacCarthy (@Mark_MacCarthy), and Nick Weaver (@ncweaver) and I discuss how French and Dutch investigators pulled off the coup of the year this April, when they totally pwned a shady “secure phone” system used by massive numbers of European criminals. Nick Weaver explains that hacking the phones of Entrochat users gave them access to large troves of remarkably candid criminal text conversations. And, I argue, it shows the flaw in the argument of encryption defenders. They are right that restricting Silicon Valley encryption will send criminals to less savory companies, but those companies are inherently more prone to compromise, as happened here.

The EARN IT Act went from Washington-controversial to Washington consensus in the usual way. It was amended into mush. Indeed, there’s an argument that, by guaranteeing nothing bad will happen to social platforms who adopt end-to-end encryption, the Leahy amendment has actually made e2e crypto more attractive than it is today. That’s my view, but Mark MacCarthy still thinks the twitching corpse of EARN IT might cause harm by allowing states to adopt stricter rules for liability in the context of child sex abuse material. He also thinks that it won’t pass. I have ten bucks that says it will, and by the end of the year.

Dave Aitel, new to the news roundup, discusses the bad week TikTok had in its second biggest market. India has banned the app. And judging from some of the teardowns of the code, its days may be numbered elsewhere as well. Dave points to reports that Angry Birds was used to collect user information as well when it was at the height of its popularity. We wax philosophic about why advertising and not national security agencies are breaking new ground in building our Brave New World.

Mark once worked for a credit card association, so he’s the perfect person to comment on claims that being labeled a “hate speech” platform won’t just get you boycotted in Silicon Valley but by the credit card associations as well. And once we’re in this vein, we mine it, covering Silicon Valley’s concerted campaign to make sure Donald Trump can’t repeat 2016 in 2020. He’s been deplatformed at Twitch this week for something he said in 2016. And Reddit dumped his enormous subreddit for failure to observe its censorship rules – which I point out are designed to censor only the majority. I argue it’s time to go after the speech police.

Nick takes us to a remarkable Washington story. He thinks it’s about a questionable Trump administration effort to redirect $10 million in “freedom tool” funding from cryptolibertarians to Falun Gong coders. I point out that US government funds going to the cryptolibertarians were paying the salary of the notorious Jake Applebaum and buying tools like TAILS that have protected appalling sextortionist criminals. Really, the money would be better spent if we burned it on cold days.

Returning to This Week in Hacked Phones, Nick explains the latest man in the middle attack that requires the phone user to do nothing but visit a website. Any website. Dave sets out the strikingly sophisticated and massive international surveillance system now aimed by China at Uighers all around the world. And Nick warns of two bugs that, if you haven’t spent the weekend fixing, may already be exploited on your network.

Download the 323rd Episode (mp3)

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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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