AI News, Government Hacking Raises New Security Concerns

Government Hacking Raises New Security Concerns

News of governments such as Russia and North Korea deploying their tech teams to hack into companies for political reasons has made headlines (think Sony after release of the movie The Interview).

refers to when government investigators use vulnerabilities (bugs) in software and hardware products to, first, gain remote access to computers that have information the investigators want, and then remotely search the computer, monitor user activity on it, or even interfere with its operation.

These hacking operations can be conducted by intelligence agencies or law enforcement agencies, in furtherance of criminal, national security, or terrorism investigations.

But there is also a market where third-party entities (that are not governments themselves) sell software and services to governments to conduct their hacking operations, and the U.S. government buys from that market too.

We don’t know just how widespread it is, because when it happens on the intelligence side, it’s classified, and when it happens on the law enforcement side, it’s in the context of criminal investigations that will remain secret while they’re ongoing.

One of my research areas at Stanford besides cybersecurity is court transparency, and trying to figure out how often the courts (at least federal courts) authorize government hacking is on my to-do list.

From the criminal cases we do know about, it’s clear that government hacking has been used in criminal investigations in the U.S. since at least the start of the 21st century, if not earlier.

which is a federal government process for determining whether to keep newly-discovered vulnerabilities secret for offensive purposes or instead disclose them to the maker of the flawed hardware or software product so that the vendor can fix the flaw, thereby improving computer security.

About five years ago, the FBI took control of a web hosting service’s servers, which included sites serving child pornography as well as sites with legal content.

In order to identify and track down the visitors to the illegal sites, the FBI used malware that exploited a flaw in the Tor browser that revealed a user’s real IP address.

people who have very good security reasons for trying to keep their online activities from revealing their true identities and locations, especially to governments.

EternalBlue was soon repurposed into WannaCry, a virulent piece of ransomware that infected hundreds of thousands of computer systems worldwide starting in May of last year, including such crucial systems as hospitals and banking.

I want this paper to be a resource for people no matter where they fall in that debate. We really don’t understand the security risks of government hacking all that well, but it’s happening already regardless.

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