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.

Filed Under: hack back, hackback, hacking back, tom graves, vulnerabilities, wannacry


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  1. icon
    Wyrm (profile), 25 May 2017 @ 10:01am

    Would that law mean people and corporations will be allowed to"hack back" the NSA? If so, it's a bad law, but that could provide some entertainment.

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