Hacked Opinions: The legalities of hacking – Chris Doggett

Kaspersky's Chris Doggett talks about hacking regulation and legislation

Kaspersky's Chris Doggett 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?

Chris Doggett, managing director of Kaspersky Lab North America (CD): There is still a general lack of understanding about the cyberthreat landscape and gaps between current cybersecurity needs and capabilities. It is a complex set of topics that is continually evolving at a very rapid pace. There are certainly some lawmakers that are versed in the topic, but the majority of legislators still need more education in order to be current and effective. That’s especially the case as new technologies are deployed related to the Internet of Things.

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

CD: We need to encourage and support legitimate security research and development. The “bad guys” are continuing to find new methods of attack and threats will continue to evolve and become more complex in nature.

We must be careful not to curtail the ability of legitimate companies (and individuals for that matter) to do security research and development through the development of well-intended, but inadvertently restrictive legislation. The recently proposed Wassenaar agreement is an example of regulation that (while well intended) would likely act as a strong deterrent to performing legitimate research.

It’s encouraging that the US government listened to industry and is considering modifying the language to address these issues. Ultimately, government and industry must be working together to reduce threats posed by cybercriminals and global threat actors.

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?

CD: Pending data security legislation must incentivize a reasonable baseline of security requirements. There are several good examples and existing standards that could be drawn upon for this; including the SANS 20 controls, the Australian Signals Directorate’s Information Security Manual, and Strategies to Mitigate Targeted Cyber Intrusions, which would prevent at least 85% of targeted attacks, to raise the overall level of enterprise security.

In return, companies should get some form of a benefit, such as improved liability protection, reduced insurance costs, or tax write-offs for investments in cybersecurity controls that meet the established standards.

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

CD: We have to raise the bar if we are going to improve the level of cyber protection in the US. We must improve our protection levels, because the threat actors are nimble, smart and increasingly organized. Today, their pace of advancement is faster than ours, and as history has shown, we cannot rely solely on the risk of damage to encourage adequate security development in the current time frame – we must provide additional drivers to encourage investment.

Incentives are one way that we can change the common mindset and move away from the present situation where too many companies are not adequately addressing the problem. Instead, let’s move toward a future that focuses on reducing risk and improving protection. The cost of protection, including additional incentives, will almost certainly be less than continuing to bear the costs of repeated breaches and theft of our intellectual property and other assets.

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?

CD: It is important to inform both consumers and businesses about new and emerging threats. Through information sharing, we can all be better prepared to defend against the evolving threat landscape. That said, it is important that we follow an established norm of responsible disclosure. By working together with research professionals who follow established responsible disclosure practices, we can make individual and corporate citizens more secure.

Therefore, it is not in our collective best interest to discourage such work; however, in the event that a researcher does not follow responsible disclosure practices that results in damage that could have been avoided by following those practices, they should not be shielded from being held liable. As a result, it is important that we establish generally accepted responsible disclosure practices.

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?

CD: The Obama Administration took positive steps in its Executive Order to encourage more information sharing in ways that protect privacy – and Congress is considering several pieces of additional legislation to do the same. Sharing threat information is a key component of improving cyber security. Encouraging two-way information sharing of threat indicators between government and the private sector is critical.

In addition, encouraging more private-to-private information sharing is also extremely valuable. Protecting privacy is critical so that no one mistakes an information sharing program as a threat to civil liberties. Such sharing should include information that provides organizations with insights into what threats are active, how to detect them and what the appropriate mitigation strategies are.

Such information sharing needs to also provide the necessary controls to protect privacy and should be anonymized to protect the individuals and companies that provide or are involved in the attacks that provide the basis for the information shared.

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