Hacked Opinions: The legalities of hacking – Joseph Pizzo

Joseph Pizzo, from Norse, talks about hacking regulation and legislation

Joseph Pizzo 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?

Joseph Pizzo, Field Engineer, Norse (JP): It appears that the biggest misconception is that they actually understand what cybersecurity is and associate it generally as hacking, as in movies and television shows, where a breach is displayed as it happens, within seconds. This lack of understanding about the various paths to a breach is leading to an assumption that if we approach the problem with one methodology, the problem will be solved.

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

JP: Legislators should be engaged in conversations with the experts that are themselves testing systems and security software for flaws, writing best practices and developing systems to protect against breaches – not just corporate executives alone.

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?

JP: If we look at CISA, there are several areas that need to be addressed. For example, some of the NIST proposals don't address basic security principals. Legislators should seek conversations with the security community -- from top-level corporate executives all the way down to the security researchers that are working on bug bounty programs -- and be transparent when writing legislation.

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

JP: If we look at the most recent piece of cybersecurity legislation, CISA, there are holes that would enable a breach of privacy and it doesn't get to the heart of the needs for a more secure environment. Transparency should be the foundation of any legislature.

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?

JP: Bully tactics don't work. If you look at some of the bug bounty programs from large companies that have been made publicly available to the security community, it’s apparent these programs deliver a more secure environment for corporate organizations, their employees and consumers alike.

These discoveries lead to other discoveries in homegrown software and systems, third party purchased systems, and common access points that exist and are installed across countless access points in countless organizations. The sharing of this information leads to better security practices. When these flaws and discoveries are published and talked about, they fall into one of three main factors of security: good technology, people and expertise.

Publication and discussion about flaws adds to the expertise. Similar to the scientific community testing new theorems, calculations, variables and factors, when security professionals are informed, they will test and build additional layers of protection.

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?

JP: Organizations should disclose breaches, including what data was exfiltrated. This information needs to be delivered to individuals that are affected by this breach, not the government. The government should hold the organization responsible and accountable if a breach occurs or they attempt to hide a breach, but they don't need the data.

Further, organizations need access to live attack intelligence and an early-warning-as-a-service to quickly identify compromised systems, spot malicious activity and track attacks while they’re still under way.

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