Congressional Rep Pushes His 'Hack Back' Bill By Claiming It Would Have Prevented The WannaCry Ransomware Attack

from the yeah-probably-not dept

Legislator Tom Graves is pushing his cyber defense bill again. So far, his bill — which we covered here in March — is still in the drafting stages and has yet to be introduced. It has a unmemorable name (Active Cyber Defense Certainty Act) [but a much better acronym (ACDC)] and a handful of ideas that are questionable at best.

The bill would amend the CFAA to give companies the ability to “hack back” to shut down attacks and identify the attackers. It would not allow them to go on the offense proactively and it doesn’t actually grant companies new statutory permissions. Instead, it provides them with an affirmative defense against CFAA-related charges, should someone decide to take them to court.

The good news about the bill’s slow crawl is it’s being rewritten before being introduced. According to the Financial Times, Graves and his team are consulting with cybersecurity experts to craft a better bill.

The Active Cyber Defense Certainty bill, co-sponsored with Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, is in its early stages. After consulting with cyber security executives at an event at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the bill is being redrafted to include safeguards such as the requirement for companies to notify law enforcement if they are using such techniques, so they can examine that they are being used responsibly.

However, Graves’ consultation process seems to begin and end here. There are many more security experts out there who believe this bill will do more harm than good and there doesn’t appear to have been much consultation with those who disagree with Graves’ beliefs.

The other questionable aspect of this renewed push for hack-back legislation is Graves’ belief this bill would have prevented something it likely wouldn’t have: the WannaCry ransomware attack.

Mr Graves said he believed the WannaCry ransomware, that hit the UK’s National Health Service and US companies including FedEx, may have been prevented if his bill had already been passed. “I do believe it would have had a positive impact potentially preventing the spread to individuals throughout the US,” he said. “Our proposal is to empower individuals and companies to fight back basically and defend themselves during a cyber attack.”

First off, nothing prevented companies and individuals from defending themselves from these attacks. Well, something did prevent them from defending themselves adequately, but the two entities most at fault were the NSA and Microsoft, with the former’s exploit making prodigious use of the latter’s security holes. There are other intermediate defensive steps that might have been taken just in general, but Microsoft is the dominant force in business software and the NSA itself was concerned this exploit might be too powerful and result in too much collateral damage.

Second, hacking back wouldn’t have halted the attack. What killed the attack wasn’t an attempt to track down the ransomware purveyors but rather by examining the exploit itself. A security researcher accidentally found a kill switch for the malware: an unregistered domain name which he purchased to hopefully track the attack. It turns out it also stopped the attack. There was no legal change that is needed to enable that to happen. Even if Graves’ bill were law, it would have had nothing to do with ending the WannaCry attack. Certainly this won’t be the case in every attack, but the lessons learned from the WannaCry attack have almost nothing to do with the actions this legislator wants to make legal.

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Comments on “Congressional Rep Pushes His 'Hack Back' Bill By Claiming It Would Have Prevented The WannaCry Ransomware Attack”

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Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Right

It certainly raises some interesting questions.

Once legal, it’s a lot easier to monetize “reverse malware” and hacking tools. Especially highly automated tools for small and medium companies who don’t have hackers on staff.

So… Would Microsoft roll their “hack back” tools into Windows Defender (“The best defense is a good offense!”), or do they monetize them as a new component in Office 365?


Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Right

I was under the impression that Office 365 was already malware. Oh, you mean make Office 365 offensive.

Definition of offensive

1 a: making attack : aggressive The bear made offensive movements.

b: of, relating to, or designed for attack offensive weapons

c: of or relating to an attempt to score in a game or contest offensive maneuvers; also : of or relating to a team in possession of the ball or puck offensive linemen

2: giving painful or unpleasant sensations : nauseous, obnoxious an offensive odor

3: causing displeasure or resentment offensive remarks

BTW, did you mean definition 1a or 2?

Anonymous Coward says:

Allowing business to hack-back is really dumb regardless of what ever assurances they give that will soon be revised, revoked and or ignored.

Remember that congress critter that proposed business be allowed to blow up computers used by pirates? What a moron. So, these computers would have an explosive device pre installed that no one would be able to remove, disable or circumvent … lol, what a moron.

These tech illiterates should not be placed in positions of authority or any decision making on tech issues, not sure what is so difficult to understand about this – must have something to do with money as that is all they seem to be concerned with.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Does this legislation strictly define the “cyber attacks” that let companies go on the offensive?

Otherwise no doubt they’ll adopt whatever definition suits them. Anything from perceived IP misuse to online criticism will no doubt be cited for “hacking back”, just like it’s routinely cited for DMCA takedown fraud and other unethical responses.

Anonymous Coward says:

what a fucking tool!

let the hacking begin!

Boss: So which one hacked us to today?
ITsec Toad: It looks like it was sourced from “St Judes” boss.
Boss: We need to get them back for this travesty!
IT Drone: Uh hey, I doubt that they really did the hacking maybe it was…
Boss: Bullshit, it’s just a cover, St Jude is obviously now a terrorist organization working under the cover of kids cancer research, the bastards!
ITsec Toad: Shall we start the DDOS boss or are we going for an infiltration?
Boss: Does not matter, do what you can to get any evidence we need to sue their asses off!

News Anchor: In tonight’s news the CEO of “Twinkle Tots Toys” has been arrested along with several others for ordering a back hack of St Jude’s that went deadly wrong after a toddlers medical equipment malfunctioned in cross fire. The family of the toddler is distraught after they had just received word the day before that treatments were working well and doctors believed the toddler was going to make a great if not full recovery.

Yep… and we will still vote this dumb fucking politician back in I bet!

NeghVar (profile) says:

Dangerous ammendment

How can you tell between the attacker and a zombie system? Say a bank’s system has been compromised and is acting as a zombie for this DDoS attack. If the attacked company then hacks back, they may end up hacking the bank’s system. When the bank investigates, they find IP addresses from the company that hacked back. Now the bank want’s to prosecute the company and there is plenty of log evidence to support the bank. Good luck company that hacked back

Anonymous Coward says:

if only people like him pushed as hard when trying to get something that is helpful and truthful into play rather than only when trying to remove privacy, remove freedom and instill even more surveillance than already in place! and as for preventing wannacry, that could easily have never happened had it not been for it’s inception by the NSA, along with other virus and loggers and trackers, all of which have never been wanted but have caused total havoc from the get go!!

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