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Hacked Opinions: The legalities of hacking – Adnan Amjad

Oct 29, 20155 mins
IT LeadershipTechnology Industry

Deloitte's Adnan Amjad talks about hacking regulation and legislation

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Deloitte’s Adnan Amjad 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.

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?

Adnan Amjad, Deloitte Advisory Cyber Risk Services, Vigilant Practice Leader (AA):

There seem to be misconceptions on both ends of the attack spectrum, from the nature of whom the attackers are to who should have been able to pre-empt an attack.

First, there is a perception that cybersecurity attacks are highly centralized and coordinated. While there are sophisticated and coordinated attacks, it is essential to recognize that cyber threat actors are often dispersed with non-traditional financing and command and control structures.

The second misconception is that when a company experiences a breach it is the result of a single failure or the responsibility of a single person. However, it is essential to recognize that there is typically a long road of systemic failures that lead to a breach. While it is appropriate to hold IT and InfoSec individuals accountable it is essential to acknowledge that these decision makers can be hamstrung by budgetary decisions, staffing challenges, or the culture of the business.

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

AA: Provide legislation that includes incentives to business decision makers to prioritize security, not just regulatory and legal penalties for failures. This is important because security is often viewed as a cost center to a business.

This perception tends to persist until a breach occurs that costs the company more money than would have a mature security program. Currently, the regulatory and legal environments mirror this thinking. Legislation should move businesses towards adopting a culture of security across all business lines.

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?

AA: Policy efforts such as NIST's Cybersecurity Framework for Critical Infrastructure have begun attempts to incentivize adoption of secure policies and practices.

Legislators should build on efforts such as this to add incentives to businesses to disclose breaches and suspected malicious activity sooner and to start the investigation and remediation processes immediately upon disclosure.

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

AA: There is a great deal of variation in the timelines that companies take to remediate after a breach. Forensics teams are often engaged for legal purposes shortly after a breach; however, the work of remediation can be left for months while legal proceedings unfold and business operations resume.

During the time that vulnerabilities are left unremediated the attack can continue, the attacker can leave backdoors for reentry, and the risk of a future attack continues to grow. Depending on the company's line of business this can mean that consumers, national security, and/or business interests continue to be impacted.

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?

AA: There are many reasons why companies should seek to collaborate with researchers before pursuing any legal action.

First, as a business leader you don't want to stifle innovation and future collaboration. The private sector directly benefits from the largely pro bono work of the researcher community. Companies should be pioneering programs to encourage collaboration with researchers, which could take many forms: expanding bug bounty programs, offering publishing opportunities, speaking opportunities, employment and more.

Also, many companies employee individuals in a research capacity and setting a precedent of retaliation could jeopardize the work of your own employees.

Finally, all companies today are seeking to attract top cybersecurity talent and actions such as these could alienate those you are trying to hire. With the title "Hacker" being the hottest job on the market embracing researchers and encouraging collaboration could be a good way to entice talented researchers to your company.

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?

AA: Collaboration between the private sector, security researchers, and government is in a renaissance period. There need to be specific venues that bring together actors across sectors and industries for sustained data and knowledge exchange with limited liability. Currently, one such venue is the NCFTA.

In such a setting companies could be expected to share attack data from potentially criminal sources and the government could declassify and share attack signatures. While the government has made steps towards promoting information sharing with the private sector, formalized in an Executive Order signed earlier this year, there remains little access to classified information.