Welcome to eWhite House Watch
Where Technology, Privacy, and Politics Collide

Cyber Policy Updates Written By La...

Cyber Policy Updates Written By Law Students

eWhite House Watch features concise updates on cyber policy issued by the Office of the President of the United States (POTUS). Monitored and written primarily by law students, each eWHW cyber policy update is presented in an easy-to-scan format that includes links to POTUS announcements, federal and state proposed legislation, breaking news, updates, cyber policy committee reports, and more.

Technology + Privacy + Politics

Technology + Privacy + Politics

Striking the proper balance of benefits between technological advances and privacy protection has always posed challenges. Today, the challenges are even greater as technology significantly outpaces privacy protections; and the need for greater recognition of this reality and honest public discourse is more pressing than ever. eWhite House Watch monitors the cyber agenda so you can be informed and partake in the debate.

New to the Cyber World?

New to the Cyber World?

Visit our special feature, Origins: The White House Cyber Agenda for details on the current administration's Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative. Learn More

Companion Blog: eLessons Learned

Companion Blog: eLessons Learned

The creator of eWhite House Watch also created eLessons Learned with a similar vision in mind: To provide readers with useful and timely information about how technology impacts our legal system and our lives in a way that is easy to understand. Learn More

Cyberwar Escalates in the Middle East

  Author: Sarah Austin   On March 31, 2015 the DHS reported two new malware campaigns spotted in the Middle East. The first malware campaign is a brand-new information gathering tool called Trojan Laziok. The operators of Trojan Laziok have been targeting oil, gas and helium companies in the Middle East since January 2015. This malware infects the companies’ computer systems via a phishing email that contains an infected Microsoft Excel file. Once the email is opened and the malware has infiltrated the system, it collects vital data and information regarding the companies’ anti-virus protection. Access to information about the companies’ anti-virus protection allows the malware’s operators to remain undetected while continuing to infect the companies system with more advanced malware, such as Cyberats and Zbots, which can record audio and video from the infected computers and monitor keystrokes.   Experts are unsure of the Trojan Laziok operators’ motives, but it is clear that the operators of Trojan Laziok have detected and exploited one of the energy industries major weaknesses: lack of investment in updating their Microsoft software and cybersecurity systems. This exposed weakness makes the energy industry a prime market for both cybercriminals who want to turn a quick profit for themselves, and sophisticated attackers who want to cause severe economic harm to their targets.   The second newly detected malware campaign, called Volatile Cedar, has been attacking Israeli and Lebanese political groups via publicly-facing web servers since 2012. This malware was able to remain undetected for two years because its operators carefully and continuously adapted it to navigate around sophisticated anti-virus protection systems. Volatile Cedar is a tool that gathers information, such as passwords, from the Microsoft servers it infects. After one computer is compromised, the malware spreads rapidly to other computers in the targeted parties’ network. It is also a self-monitoring program equipped with a self-destruct system to protect itself from detection.   The operators of Volatile Cedar are sophisticated attackers. The attackers’ suspected motive is intrastate espionage and a large number of victims are from Lebanon. However, many victims in other countries have yet to be detected. Even since reports of detection a few days ago, the attackers’ have activated a self-destruct command from their control center to prevent investigators from acquiring more information regarding the customized malware system.   Experts have suggested that an increase in threat intelligence sharing could be a significant part of the solution to the cyberwar in the Middle East.   OFFICIAL SOURCE:http://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/nppd/ip/daily-report/dhs-daily-report-2015-04-01.pdf   SECONDARY SOURCES:http://www.networkworld.com/article/2904293/lebanese-cyberespionage-campaign-hits-defense-telecom-media-firms-worldwide.html#tk.rss_all   http://news.softpedia.com/news/Trojan-Laziok-Used-for-Reconnaissance-in-the-Energy-Sector-477175.shtml   http://www.csoonline.com/article/2905719/advanced-persistent-threats/cyberwar-heats-up-in-the-middle-east.html?phint=newt%3Dcso_newswatch&phint=idg_eid%3D0bef32add6184e914bc1cf0418888edc#tk.CSONLE_nlt_newswatch_2015-04-03

Wikimedia v NSA Complaint

The grounds for which Wikimedia is basing its lawsuit involve the mass surveillance program that the NSA has been implementing. One of the most troublesome facets of this program, according to Wikimedia’s pleading, is the NSA’s search and seizure of internet communications, which is called “Upstream” surveillance. Wikimedia argues that these actions violate its users most basic of rights, citing the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protection of freedom of speech, and Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure because defendants’ conduct involved suspicionless seizure and searching of Internet traffic by NSA on U.S. soil.   The founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, continues to emphasize that user privacy is of utmost importance. When such privacy is put in question, and people fear that their information will be leaked, the Wiki experience is seriously undermined. This issue, with the NSA specifically, was made much more serious and real with the Edward Snowden 2013 public disclosures, which revealed information about Wikimedia’s programs. According to its blog postings, Wikimedia has been looking for a way to file a lawsuit ever since this incident. Zeroing in on the “upstream” surveillance aspect allows the suit to serve as a vehicle to address Wikimedia’s views on how…..   For the full article please follow this link: http://scarincihollenbeck.com/how-many-nsa-does-it-take-to-anger-wikimedia/   To download the complaint please click here: http://ewhwblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Wikimedia_v._NSA_Complaint21.pdf Wikimedia_v._NSA_Complaint2   **This article was authored by Cyber Security attorney Fernando M. Pinguelo, Partner at Scarinci Hollenbeck attorneys at Law and Jenna Methven, Chief Blog Correspondent and Blogger for eWhiteHouse Watch and a Monmouth University student.

Net Neutrality – A Win for Liberty or Lawyers?

On February 26, 2015, the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality by applying Title II (of the Communications Act of 1934 to Internet service providers and reclassifying broadband access as a telecommunications service. Championing the new regulations, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, "[t]his is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. They both stand for the same concept." While Mr. Wheeler views the regulations as a referee, Telecom company's insist that the measures will do more harm than good, and consumers will bear the brunt of change. What is net neutrality? In short, adoption of Title II established three bright line rules… No Blocking: broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices. No Throttling: broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices. No Paid Prioritization: broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration – in other words, no “fast lanes.”  This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates. Who is for it and who is against it? Those who support net neutrality argue that allowing “paid prioritization” unfairly raises prices on content services and that adoption of title II levels the playing field for all Americans. Opponents say the Title II designation will stifle innovation in broadband. A group of Internet service providers (ISPs), including AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon, argue that the new classification permits the FCC to conduct "unprecedented government micromanagement of all aspects of the Internet economy." What does this law mean for the consumer? The FCC promises that broadband will continued to cost the same amount as it did before. This ruling establishes the authority to implement regulations put in place in 2010, and will grant the FCC the administrative authority to examine practices and hear complaints. This past week, at the Mobile World Conference, Mr. Wheeler seemed argued that he his plans have been mischaracterized. Wheeler dismisses the idea that adoption of Title II is heavy handed regulation but is instead, as Mr. Wheeler characterized it, a referee throwing up the card when someone acts in an unfair manner. In Europe there are proposals coming through the European commission which would allow specialized services, being provided by telecom groups, to be delivered at guaranteed speeds for customers - very different from what has been proposed int the US. Many opponents have accused the President as relaying pressure from Facebook and google to take action on their behalfs. While adoption of the regulations will begin to have an effect in early summer, the telecoms companies are saying to Mr. Wheeler - “we’ll see you in court.” http://www.mediaite.com/tv/john-oliver-explains-fccs-net-neutrality-ruling-to-confused-republicans/

In the Clear after 14 Years? Not Quite.

Looks like mistakes are finally catching up to the group of hackers with suspected ties to the NSA, referred to as “Equation Group” by Kaspersky Researchers, as reported in Ars Technica this past week. After almost 14 years of going unnoticed, it looks like Equation Group is finally getting the recognition they deserve. The Ars Technica article exposed information regarding the astounding capabilities of Equation Group, as well several reasons why it seems it’s more likely than not affiliated with the NSA. As seen in previous posts, the NSA is a reoccurring topic when it comes to cyber security. As reported, the information from the Report  released this past week from the Kaspersky Security Analysis Summit proves why Equation Group is being called “probably the most sophisticated computer attack group in the world.” The Ars Technica article discusses Equation Group’s impressive record, with its most note-worthy achievements including a 2002/2003 hack involving Oracle databased installation CDs and a 2009 attack carried out by infecting CDs sent to specific researchers from a recent scientific conference they had attended. According to the Kaspersky website, Equation Group uses “implants” in order to infect victims and obtain information. According to the Kaspersky report, Equation Group is responsible for more than 500 attacks in 42 countries, although it is estimated by some that the real number is probably much higher considering its impressive ability to prevent themselves from being tracked. As pointed out in the article, Kaspersky researchers refrained from specifically naming the NSA in their report, although the procedural similarities between Equation Group and operations known to be the NSA are striking. Aside from this, as noted in the Ars Technica article, the time and resources, as well as Equation Group’s advanced capabilities are things “people have come to expect from a spy agency sponsored by the world’s wealthiest nation.” Despite keeping quiet since the report’s release this past week, it should be interesting to see if the NSA comes up with a response or acknowledges the allegations made in the report at all. Either way, Equation Group definitely poses a serious threat to cyber security worldwide, whether tied to the NSA or not. Or, maybe not.  Depending on how you look at it, this program may be exactly the kind of program the NSA should be running, instead of the broad domestic surveillance it’s developed in recent years – here’s why.

President Obama Rejuvenates the Cyber Troops: Is the Private Sector be on Board?

This past week, President Obama met with tech gurus at Stanford University to discuss cybersecurity and emphasized the need to focus more efforts on combating cyber security threats. The theme of his speech was the unification of efforts by the private sector and public sector. The flexibility of the private sector combined with the wealth of data collected by the government could, the President hopes make for an aggressive partnership capable of combating cyber threats. While the President’s remarks were very broad, a plenary session of corporate leaders spoke about two issues that might define a cyber security relationship. First, the need to reduce outdated legislation that hinders cyber protection efforts and Second, the definition of “data” that is to be shared.   During a plenary panel, led by Director of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, corporate leaders talked about the the growing need to face cyber threats facing their industries and hurdles to doing so. One of the themes that each executive touched on was that outdated legislation and regulatory measures hinder the company’s ability to face modern threats. For example, Kenneth Chenault of American Express, highlighted that limits on access to customers via text messaging and email hindered Amex’s ability to rapidly respond to such threats. Additionally, Mr. Chenault called for greater transparency in the way in which the government collects and shares it’s data with private industry, claiming that less than 1% of all threats facing Amex were sourced from government entities.   Mr. Bernard Thompson, from Kaiser Permanente emphasized that private industry should not be willing to blindly hand over their data to the government. Healthcare data is sensitive information and he said that the relationship between government and private industry should be clearly defined by the type of data industry is willing to share. He emphasized that he would under no circumstances be willing to share “content” with the government, but would provide information about those attempting to gain access to that content. Mr. Thompson reiterated the point that outdated legislation continues to hinder Kaiser Permanente’s ability to face growing threats. Financial and Healthcare corporations like American Express and Kaiser Permanente respectively, have built their reputations on trust with their customers. Any talk of data sharing will need to be clearly defined. Additionally, any government led cyber security policy will inevitably usher in a series of new regulations and with them regulatory cost. Corporations, unlike our sluggish bureaucracy must make cuts were new regulatory measures are needed to be enforced. A certain degree of deregulation of outdated measures will be necessary to help corporations create a lean cyber fighting mechanisms. http://www.c-span.org/video/?324360-2/publicprivate-collaboration-cybersecurity  

Obama’s Cybersecurity Initiative: Substance? Or Hot Air?

Success of the President's proposed cyber legislation hinges on the willingness of corporations to share their data with the government.  But why would a company want to share data with the government? While the Sony hack was shocking to most, it’s unlikely that corporations will be willing to trust the government with their customers most sensitive data. For one, businesses owe a duty to their customers to maintain their data in accordance with their agreements with and expectations of their customers.  Also, despite billions of dollars in funding, the federal bureaucracy has failed to meet its own federal cybersecurity standards. Using data from General Accounting Office, George Mason University researchers found that in 2006, there were more than 5,503 cyber-breaches on federal IT systems, in 2013 - 61,213 cyber-breaches. Since 2002, the federal government has had its own legislation similar to the one proposed by the President last week, and despite $78.8 billion in funding, the number of IT security breaches has increased more than 10 times since 2006. Critics argue criminalizing cybercrime will not prevent what Americans fear - industrial espionage and oversea hackers. Summary of President’s proposal: 1.      Cyber information sharing between private sector and government, with liability protection for companies 2.      Expanding RICO to include cyber-crime 3.      Criminalizing the sale of botnets and the sale of banking information overseas 4.      Greater restrictions on selling spyware 5.      Gives Courts the authority to shut down botnets engaged in distributed denial of service attacks and other criminal activity 6.      Making rogue insiders punishable by the CFAA (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act) 7.      Uniform national data breach notification - 30 days within attack 8.      Establish a consumer policy bill of rights Additionally, critics argue that the law could hinder U.S. internet users who have no intention of committing cybercrimes but who may be out of compliance with a U.S. judgment in an effort to debilitate cybercrime. What is lacking from this bill is a mechanism that actively seeks out global cyber threats; and while the new legislation may reign in domestic cybercriminals - it does nothing to relieve our increasing threat - rapidly emerging economies with no form of legal redress for victims of cybercrimes. Despite bills that promise to reign in cybercriminals, it remains incumbent on companies to strengthen their own defenses.