The Lawfare Podcast: Lindsey Polley on the Vulnerabilities Equities Process

Jen Patja, Stephanie Pell, Lindsey Polley
Monday, June 6, 2022, 12:00 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With
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The business of offensive cyber operations and intelligence gathering increasingly requires the military and intelligence community to exploit networks, hardware, and software owned or produced by American companies and used by American citizens. Sometimes this exploitation occurs with the use of zero-day vulnerabilities. In order to determine when zero-day vulnerabilities should be exploited versus disclosed to the relevant vendor so that the vulnerability can be patched, the United States government engages in an interagency process known as the Vulnerabilities Equities Process or VEP.

Stephanie Pell sat down with Dr. Lindsey Polley, director of defense and national security at Starburst Aerospace, to talk about her recently defended dissertation, “To Disclose or Not to Disclose, That Is the Question: A Methods-Based Approach for Examining & Improving the US Government's Vulnerabilities Equities Process.” They discussed the purpose of the VEP, how it is structured to operate, and how its current state and structure impedes its ability to promote longer-term social good through its vulnerability adjudications. They also talked about some of Lindsey's recommendations to improve the VEP.


Jen Patja is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.
Stephanie Pell is a Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a Senior Editor at Lawfare. Prior to joining Brookings, she was an Associate Professor and Cyber Ethics Fellow at West Point’s Army Cyber Institute, with a joint appointment to the Department of English and Philosophy. Prior to joining West Point’s faculty, Stephanie served as a Majority Counsel to the House Judiciary Committee. She was also a federal prosecutor for over fourteen years, working as a Senior Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General, as a Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General of the National Security Division, and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.
Dr. Lindsey Polley is the director of defense and national security at Starburst Aerospace, where she leads strategic advisory cells that provide emergent technology solution identification for segments of the DoD, with an emphasis on space application.

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