Hacked Opinions: The legalities of hacking – Patrick Peterson

Agari's Patrick Peterson talks about hacking regulation and legislation

Patrick Peterson 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. This week CSO is posting the final submissions for the second set of discussions examining 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 have thoughts or suggestions for the third series of Hacked Opinions topics, or want to be included as a participant, feel free to email Steve Ragan directly.

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

Patrick Peterson, CEO, Agari (PP): They mistakenly believe they can solve the problem, rather than establishing clear rules of the road so that law enforcement and the cybersecurity industry (practitioners) can better solve the problem. It is not Congress’ job to prevent crime. It is their job to set standards and rules that will combat crime. The clearer they can be, the better we can all do our jobs.

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

PP: We are losing battles everyday and the stakes are massive. The time is now for them to get to work and provide the legislation we need to start winning these battles. Passing laws to combat cybercrime will give everyone one more tool in our tool belt. Equivocation or delay is not acceptable.

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?

PP: We hereby decree a safe harbor for all cybersecurity researchers, who share data in pursuit of protecting our citizens and critical infrastructure.

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

PP: When the house is on fire, you don’t obey the speed limit. We spend far too much time allowing the criminals to win, while we consult antiquated legislation that fails to define PII, what can be shared, etc.

Sharing data, after the fact, when companies have already been breached is not enough to prevent future crimes. Continuously exchanging threat intelligence data will give companies a fighting chance when it comes to combating cybercrime; a chance that we most desperately need in this time of increasing risk. By creating a safe environment for professionals to work together and share information, it greatly increases the chance of stopping a cyber attack before it does tremendous damage.

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?

PP: If the talk is of academic value, absolutely not. First, such efforts usually serve early to give the story 10x more media attention. Second, such disclosures, while temporary painful, have proved to be essential to building a safer Internet. Thirdly, the cybercriminals probably know everything already.

We have a stigma about security in our society. Companies are continually asking to remain anonymous when it comes to sharing what they are doing in terms of security. They feel that they cannot share their “tricks of the trade,” while continuing to keep consumers and the business safe. However, obscuring an organization’s security posture is not enhancing security. In fact, this can actually set companies up for dire scenarios. Instead, we need to break down the doors of this stigma and bring security talks into the forefront.

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?

PP: We should be sharing indicators of compromise, known patterns that are emitted when a computer is owned by a criminal. Fraud innovations, such as new ATM malware or POS scraping malware, and any known criminal infrastructure that we should all be blocking. It is not necessary to focus on what the government shares with its citizens, but rather how they are making sure they are shoring up their own infrastructure and protecting the critical data of US citizens.

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