Hacked Opinions: The legalities of hacking – Bill Platt

Bill Platt talks about hacking regulation and legislation

BMC's Bill Platt talks about hacking regulation and legislation with CSO in a series of topical discussions with industry leaders and experts.

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.

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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 lawmakers have when it comes to cybersecurity?

Bill Platt, Senior Vice President, Chief Architect, BMC (BP): In my experience talking with lawmakers, the biggest misconception around cybersecurity is that cybersecurity is comparable to police activity in the sense that the application of reactive diligence can be used to keep people safe.

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

BP: The doors and windows to security need to open and close both ways. If you think you can make a one-way passage on the Internet or around your sovereignty, it will simply become a trap for those on both sides.

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?

BP: Individuals or private entities that share meaningful, previously undisclosed cyber threat or privacy threat information with the government should be eligible to receive some benefits.

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

BP: Many sources outside of the government often provide incentives for disclosing cyber threat or privacy threat information. A healthy living can be made from research that provides the government and private entities with valuable information on security vulnerabilities and remedies.

If the government feels the need to legislate what and how data and networks are to be secured, the government should also be investing in research that incentivizes people to help the government strengthen data and network security.

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?

BP: On the surface, no, companies should not resort to legal threats or intimidation because disclosure of research is needed to advance technologies that improve online security. No disclosure results in an uneven playing field in which only certain parties have access to this research – and if someone has an informational advantage, they are likely to exploit that advantage.

By removing this advantage, we can help eliminate threats because there is little incentive to take advantage of technology research that enables someone to “profit” once there is widespread knowledge about this research. In the practical world, each use case of what is to be published must be understood to determine the specific risks and benefits. In some cases, legal protection may be the only way to address a security risk.

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?

BP: Data related to attacks, threats and privacy that pertains to a specific individual or entity should be shared with both the government and ‘the rest of us’. The difficulty with this is that, in reality, what is a threat and what can be kept private is a constantly moving target.

Attempts to define it need to be regularly iterated in order to keep up with the pace of technology and attacks. In addition to writing legislation, the key to effective cybersecurity is to practice the disciplines of the technology world, rapidly update and leverage the best available tools for security operations.

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