Copyright Blocking Security Research: Researchers Barred From Exploring Leaked Archive
from the that's-a-problem dept
Two researchers for Kaspersky Lab, Costin Raiu and Anton Ivanov, have published an absolutely fascinating tale of how they successfully tracked down a zero day exploit in Microsoft Silverlight. The story is totally worth reading, and it stems from the researchers trying to find an exploit that was described in an Ars Technica article by Cyrus Farivar, concerning a hacker selling exploits to Hacking Team, which was revealed last summer when Hacking Team got hacked and had all its emails (among other things) released.
Again, the whole story is fascinating and worth reading. The researchers explain how they found the vulnerability (which basically involved setting a trap and eventually having it sprung, more or less after they’d forgotten about it), but there’s a surprising tidbit all the way at the end of the article, highlighted by Chris Soghoian, in which the Kaspersky researchers admit that they’re not positive the vulnerability they found is the same one described by the Russian hacker who sold his exploits to Hacking Team… thanks to copyright:
One final note: due to copyright reasons, we couldn?t check if the leaked Hacking Team archive has this exploit as well. We assume the security community which found the other zero-days in the HackingTeam leaks will also be able to check for this one.
There’s been plenty of talk for years about how copyright can restrict security research. Much of that has focused on anti-circumvention provisions, such as the DMCA 1201, that makes getting around “technological protection measures” a form of copyright infringement. We’ve seen that issue pop up occasionally, like the time that the RIAA threatened to sue Ed Felten if he presented his research on why its SDMI DRM was broken.
Clearly, however, that’s not the issue here. It’s not even entirely clear what the exact copyright issue would be here, but it is worth noting that when the leak first happened, at least someone sought to take down the documents by making copyright claims. Perhaps Kaspersky’s lawyers fear that even looking through the leaked documents could expose them to some sort of copyright liability.
And, given the way people fling around copyright lawsuits these days, perhaps that’s not so crazy from the “limiting liability” perspective. But from the “doing security research” perspective, it’s absolutely ridiculous. And, just another example of the dangerous copyright creep — where this tool is used to stop otherwise perfectly reasonable behavior. In this case, it’s not just stopping reasonable behavior, but important research that may be necessary to better protect privacy and safety.