Hacked Opinions: The legalities of hacking – Dr. Chenxi Wang

Dr. Chenxi Wang, from Twistlock, talks about hacking regulation and legislation

Dr. Chenxi Wang, from Twistlock, talks about hacking regulation and legislation with CSO in a series of topical discussions with industry leaders and experts.

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Hacked Opinions is an ongoing series of Q&As with industry leaders and experts on a number of topics that impact the security community. The first set of discussions focused on disclosure and how pending regulation could impact it. Now, this second set of discussions will examine security research, security legislation, and the difficult decision of taking researchers to court.

CSO encourages everyone to take part in the Hacked Opinions series. If you would like to participate, email Steve Ragan with your answers to the questions presented in this Q&A. The deadline is October 31, 2015. In addition, feel free to suggest topics for future consideration.

What do you think is the biggest misconception that lawmakers have when it comes to cybersecurity?

Dr. Chenxi Wang, chief strategy officer at Twistlock (CW): The biggest misconception that I see is that lawmakers thinks that cyber security research needs to be regulated, and that a one-country, top-down based approach can solve the problem.

Lawmakers don't necessarily have the insight and expertise to fully understand this issue - not sure they can even competently decide which activities constitute "hacking, and which are not.

Also, how do we regulate hacking when China does not consider it as "hacking"? Regulations maybe able to help in certain aspects, but they are almost decidedly affect someone's cyber security posture.

What advice would you give to lawmakers considering legislation that would impact security research or development?

CW: I would encourage lawmakers to see security research as a resource that they can leverage, rather than a threat or a risk that needs to be regulated or restricted. Lawmakers can help build programs that channel the expertise of security research for both private industry needs as well as national causes.

If you could add one line to existing or pending legislation with a focus on research, hacking or other related security topic, what would it be?

CW: I want the equivalent of a cyber defense bureau. Certainly FBI has the cyber-crime unit, and there is also the NCIJTF (National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force), but what's missing is that proactive help at the first line of defense.

Now, given what you said, why is this one line so important to you?

CW: Right now many companies are essentially "naked" in the cyber space, with very little to defend themselves, while there is an "active war" going on in the cyber space.

As a country, you'll never do that to your citizens in an active war - you'll protect them with an army. But in the cyber space, our companies are getting attacked, IPs are stolen, and livelihoods are disrupted or destroyed every day, and our country lacks a good line of defense.

What if the Cyber Defense Bureau offers a national tiger team service utilizing the help of many white hat hackers in the industry, and private companies can partake in that service. If you don't pass the tiger team test, maybe you ought to strengthen and rethink your cyber presence.

Wars will be increasingly fought in the cyber space; the lawmakers in this country will be better served if we get in front of that.

Do you think a company should resort to legal threats or intimidation to prevent a researcher from giving a talk or publishing their work? Why, or why not?

CW: Many companies have learned that censorship lead to alienation of the research community, which is not a good thing in the long run. Sometimes it leads to customer ill will or even retaliation. Microsoft has learned that lesson; Oracle and FireEye recently learned that lesson.

While companies should not waver from their right to defend the principles of their business, they could actually benefit more from collaborating with the security researchers rather than alienating them.

What types of data (attack data, threat intelligence, etc.) should organizations be sharing with the government? What should the government be sharing with the rest of us?

CW: The private sector should share information about malware signatures and attack patterns with the government so long as this information does not impact user privacy.

Likewise, the government should share with private industry its knowledge about international criminal groups or motivations of these hacking groups, or attack signatures that they have detected but are not widely known.

That kind of sharing is going on today, but more on an ad-hoc basis. The government will be better served with an open system that has clearly stated criteria and transparency to how information is collected and utilized.

With this system, companies can easily reach out to government agencies if they detect an attack and also see the impact of the information sharing.

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