The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

Volokh Conspiracy

Will Silicon Valley have to choose between end-to-end crypto and shutting down speech it hates?

Episode 274 of the Cyberlaw Podcast


Our guests this week are Paul Scharre from the Center for a New American Security and Greg Allen from the Defense Department's newly formed Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. Paul and Greg have a lot to say about AI policy, especially with an eye toward national security and strategic competition with China. Greg sheds some light on DOD's activity, and Paul helps us understand how the military and policymakers are grappling with this emerging technology. But at the end of the day, I want to know: Are we at risk of losing the AI race with China? Paul and Greg tell me not all hope's lost – and how we can retain technological leadership.

In what initially seemed like a dog-bites-man story, Attorney General Barr revived the "warrant-proof" encryption debate. He brings some thoughtful arguments to the table, including references to practical proposals by GCHQ, Ray Ozzie, and Matt Tait. Nick Weaver is skeptical toward GCHQ's proposal. But I think the future of the debate will be driven by Facebook's apparent plan to drastically undermine end-to-end encryption by introducing content moderation to its encrypted messaging services. I argue that Silicon Valley is so intent on censoring its users that it is willing to sacrifice confidentiality and security (at least for anyone to the right of George W. Bush). News Roundup newcomer Dave Aitel thinks I'm wrong, at least in my attribution of Facebook's motivations.

Mieke Eoyang, another News Roundup newcomer, brings us up to date on all the happenings in election security. Bob Mueller's testimony brought Russian election meddling to the fore. His mistake, I argue, was testifying first to the hopelessly ideological House Judiciary Committee. Speaking of Congress, Mieke notes that the Senate Intel Committee released a redacted report finding that every state was targeted by Russian hackers in the 2016 election – and argues that we're still not prepared to handle their ongoing efforts.

Congress is attempting to create a federal election security mandate through several different election security bills, but they likely will continue to languish in the Senate, despite what Mieke sees as a bipartisan consensus. Meanwhile, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, now on his way out, has established a new office to oversee and coordinate election security intelligence. Nick adds an extra reason to double down on election security: How else can we convince the loser that he is indeed the loser?

In other news, NSA is going back to the future by establishing a new Cybersecurity Directorate. Dave sheds light on the NSA's history of reorganizations and what this new effort means for the Agency. Dave and I think there's hope that this move will help NSA better reach the private sector – and even give DHS a run for its money.

I also offer Dave the opportunity to respond to critics who argued that his firm, Immunity Inc., was wrong to include a version of the BlueKeep exploit in its commercial pentesting software. The long and the short of it: If a vulnerability has been patched, then that patch gives an adversary everything they need to know to exploit that vulnerability. It only makes sense, then, to make sure your clients are able to protect themselves by testing exploits against that vulnerability.

Mieke brings us up to speed on the cybercrime blotter. Marcus Hutchins, one of Dave's critics, pled guilty to distributing the Kronos malware but was sentenced to time served thanks in part to his work to stop the spread of the WannaCry ransomware. Mieke says that Hutchins's case is a good example that not all black hat hackers are irredeemable. I note that it was good for him that he made his transition before he was arrested. Dave and Nick support the verdict while lamenting how badly hackers are treated by US law.

We round out the News Roundup with quick hits: Facebook had a very bad week, not least because of the multibillion dollar fine imposed by the FTC; the Department of Justice is going to launch a sweeping antitrust investigation into Big Tech; there was a wild hacking conspiracy in Brazil involving cell phones, bribes, and carwashes; Equifax reached a settlement with the FTC regarding its epic data breach. Speaking of which, we make a special offer to loyal listeners who can now claim a $125 check (or free credit monitoring, if you really prefer). Just go here, and be sure to tell them the Cyberlaw Podcast sent you. Oh, and an anti-robocall bill finally made it through both houses of Congress.

Download the 274th Episode (mp3).

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