Cybersecurity & Tech

The Cyberlaw Podcast: Fancy Bear Goes Phishing

Stewart Baker
Tuesday, October 31, 2023, 10:43 AM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

I take advantage of Scott Shapiro’s participation in this episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast to interview him about his book, Fancy Bear Goes Phishing – The Dark History of the Information Age, in Five Extraordinary Hacks. It’s a remarkable tutorial on cybersecurity, told through stories that you’ll probably think you already know until you see what Scott has found by digging into historical and legal records. We cover the Morris worm, the Paris Hilton hack, and the earliest Bulgarian virus writer’s nemesis. Along the way, we share views about the refreshing emergence of a well-paid profession largely free of the credentialism that infects so much of the American economy. In keeping with the rest of the episode, I ask Bing Image Creator to generate alternative artwork for the book.

In the news roundup, Michael Ellis walks us through the “sweeping”™ White House executive order on artificial intelligence. The tl;dr: the order may or may not actually have real impact on the field. The same can probably be said of the advice now being dispensed by AI’s “godfathers.”™ -- the keepers of the flame for AI existential risk who have urged that AI companies devote a third of their R&D budgets to AI safety and security and accept liability for serious harm. Scott and I puzzle over how dangerous AI can be when even the most advanced engines can only do multiplication successfully 85% of the time. Along the way, we evaluate methods for poisoning training data and their utility for helping starving artists get paid when their work is repurposed by AI.

Speaking of AI regulation, Nick Weaver offers a real-life example: the California DMV’s immediate suspension of Cruise’s robotaxi permit after a serious accident that the company handled poorly. 

Michael tells us what’s been happening in the Google antitrust trial, to the extent that anyone can tell, thanks to the heavy confidentiality restrictions imposed by Judge Mehta. One number that escaped -- $26 billion in payments to maintain Google as everyone’s default search engine – draws plenty of commentary.

Scott and I try to make sense of CISA’s claim that its vulnerability list has produced cybersecurity dividends. We are inclined to agree that there’s a pony in there somewhere.

Nick explains why it’s dangerous to try to spy on Kaspersky. The rewards my be big, but so is the risk that your intelligence service will be pantsed. Nick also notes that using Let’s Encrypt as part of your man in the middle attack has risks as well – advice he probably should deliver auf Deutsch.

Scott and I cover a great Andy Greenberg story about a team of hackers who discovered how to unlock a vast store of bitcoin on an IronKey but may not see a payoff soon. I reveal my connection to the story.

Michael and I share thoughts about the effort to renew section 702 of FISA, which lost momentum during the long battle over choosing a Speaker of the House. I note that USTR has surrendered to reality in global digital trade and point out that last week’s story about judicial interest in tort cases against social media turned out to be the first robin in what now looks like a remake of The Birds

Download 479th Episode (mp3)

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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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