The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Nick Weaver kicks off this wide-ranging episode by celebrating Treasury's imposition of sanctions on a cryptocurrency mixer that facilitated the laundering of stolen cryptocurrency. David Kris calls on Justice to step up its game in the face of this competition, while Nick urges Treasury to also sanction Tornado Cash — and explains why this would incentivize better behavior more generally. Scott Shapiro weighs in to describe North Carolina's effort to prohibit government entities from paying ransomware gangs; he doubts it will work.
David and Scott also further our malware education by summarizing two chilling reports about successful long-term intrusion campaigns – one courtesy of Chinese state hackers and the other likely launched by Russian government agents. I can't help wondering whether the Russian agencies haven't prioritized flashy hacks over effective ones – to Russia's cost in the war with Ukraine.
Nick provides a tutorial on why quantum cryptanalysis is worrying the Biden Administration and what it thinks we ought to do about it. I note how good U.S. physicists have gotten at selling expensive dreams to their government – and express considerable relief that Chinese physicists are apparently at least as good at extracting funding from their government.
I find a story mainstream media is already burying because it doesn't fit the "AI bias" narrative. It turns out that, in a study of face recognition systems by the Department of Homeland Security, most errors (75%) were introduced at the photo capture stage, not by the matching algorithms. What's more, the bias we keep hearing about has disappeared for the best products. Error rates were reported for the most accurate systems by gender and skin color. Errors in matching women, light-skinned subjects, and dark-skinned subjects were all as low as it's possible to be — zero. For men, the error rate was nearly zero — 0.8%. These tests were of authentication/identification face recognition, which is easier to do than 1:n "searches" for matching faces, but the results mean that we can expect the whole bias issue to disappear as soon as the public wises up to the ideologically driven journalism now on offer.
Nick and I spar over location data sales by software providers. I pour cold water on the notion that evil prosecutors will use location data to track women to abortion clinics in other states. Nick thinks I'm wrong and we put some money on the outcome, though it may take five years for one of us to collect.
Scott unpacks the flap over Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Disinformation Governance Board, headed by Cyberlaw Podcast alumna Nina Jankowicz, who revealed on Tiktok that I should have asked her to sing the interview. Scott and I agree that DHS is retreating quickly from the board's name and mission as negative reviews pile up for the body's name, leader, and mission.
This Week in Schadenfreude is covered by Nick, who dwells on the irony of the Spanish prime minister's phone being targeted with Pegasus spyware not long after the Spanish government was widely blamed for using Pegasus against Catalan separatists.
In quick hits,
- Scott explains why British Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are complaining about a government order that they not give British citizens access to sanctioned websites.
- Scott and I take turns mocking the fashion for phony international law agreements. These now include Silicon Valley's astroturfed Paris Call and the Biden Administration's Declaration for the Future of the Internet, better known as the "Convention for International Unicorns and Fairy Dust."
- David celebrates the one-year term extension for Gen. Nakasone, and we share views on the unwisdom of dividing the leadership of Cyber Command and NSA.
- Squeaking under the wire, I manage to bring Elon Musk into the podcast as the exit music mounts, noting that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is likely to complicate but not stall his acquisition of Twitter.
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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.