Cybersecurity & Tech

The Cyberlaw Podcast: “I’ll Take Hacking Tesla for One Million Dollars, Alex”

Stewart Baker
Thursday, September 10, 2020, 11:27 AM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

In our 327th episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast, Stewart is joined by Nick Weaver (@ncweaver), David Kris (@DavidKris), and Dave Aitel (@daveaitel). We are back from hiatus, with a one-hour news roundup to cover the big stories of the last month.  Pride of place goes to the WeChat/Tiktok mess, which just gets messier as the deadline for action draws near. TikTok is getting all the attention but WeChat is by far the thorniest policy and technical problem. I predict delays as Commerce wrestles with them. Nick Weaver predicts that TikTok’s lawsuit will push resolution of its situation into January.  I’ve got fifty bucks that says it won’t. Lawfare wins either way.

Dave Aitel digs into the attempted Tesla hack. Second best question in the segment: Who’s the insider that enabled an attack on his employer and is still working there three years later?  Best question: How many CSO’s can say with confidence that none of their employees would take $1 million to plug a USB stick into the company network? 

This Month in Overhyped Judicial Decisions about FISA: David Kris lays out the seven-years-late Ninth Circuit decision that has been billed as striking at the FISA warrantless surveillance law. Talk about overtaken by events. The opinion grumbles about the Fourth Amendment but doesn’t actually rule (and its analysis is so partial that it isn’t even persuasive dicta). It boldly finds that the collection violated a statute that has been repealed anyway. And then it says that doesn’t matter because suppression of the evidence isn’t a remedy and the violation didn’t taint the trial.  The only really good news for the civil liberties community is that Justice can’t appeal to the Supreme Court because, well, it won.

David also takes on the other overhyped FISA decision, a lengthy FISA court review of agencies’ minimization practices with respect to Americans’ data collected under section 702. The court approved practically everything but was predictably and not improperly upset at the FBI’s inability to design social and IT systems that prevent dumb violations of the rules. 

Speaking of FISA, important national security provisions remain unsettled, in large part because of Trump’s misguided opposition. Who, David asks, could possibly persuade GOP members that there’s a FISA reform that responds to their sense of grievance over the Russian collusion investigation?  I volunteer, with lengthy testimony to the PCLOB and a shorter piece in Lawfare.

Dave Aitel asks why we’re surprised that Iranian hackers are monetizing access to networks that don’t offer national security value to their government. Or that hackers are following their targets into specialized software markets. If you know your target is a law firm, he suggests, you’d be better off looking for flaws in Relativity than in Windows…. Excuse me, I just felt someone walk over my grave.

Nick and Dave are both critical of the Justice Department’s indictment of Joe Sullivan for obstruction of justice and misprision of felony. That is beginning to look like a case Sullivan can win, and he just might take it to trial. 

Nick thinks the Justice Department is playing a long game in pretending it can seize 280 cryptocurrency accounts used by hackers. It can’t get the funds, but it sure can make it hard for the hackers to get them. 

U.S. Agencies Must Adopt Vulnerability-Disclosure Policies by March 2021. 

And more!

Download the 327th 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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