Embarrassing Hackers: Lawfare

I was reading a Lawfare book review written by Benjamin Wittes, and I came across an interesting idea.  The book itself is relevant (America the Vulnerable, by Joel Brenner) in that it explores cyber-espionage and the US' cyber vulnerabilities, and the review is a positive one.  However, it wasn't the book that interested me.

In a small critique of the book, Wittes mentions that the author didn't address offensive cyberattack.  The author does quickly mention the use of offensive cyber-espionage as a sort of active defense, but Wittes notes that this level of espionage would counteract large scale cyberattacks.  However, large scale cyberattacks are rare.  In the meantime, we are dealing with a pervasive level of cyber-espionage that exfiltrates "terebytes of valuable data."  We can't necessarily use the same level of offensive cyberattack to deal with cyber-espionage; cyber-espionage is not cyberwar.  Are our hands tied? 

Thankfully, they are not.  Wittes recommends lower level retaliatory attacks on those behind cyber-espionage.  In the case of China, Wittes mentions a PLA hacker school and advocates using a mix of identity theft and/or disclosure of embarrassing personal details to retaliate against its members.  Better yet, the US could "degrade the Great Firewall of China."  In the best line of the entire review, Wittes says that "there are people and institutions whom our criminal justice apparatus and diplomacy cannot reach . . . but that does not mean that we cannot raise the cost to individuals, states, and organizations of eroding our security."

I just love this idea.  Cyber-espionage seems to convey a feeling of helplessness.  No matter how good our network defenses are, they'll always be a way to get in.  Political considerations have prevented the US from directly confronting the Chinese.  And we can't retaliate against cyber-espionage with damaging cyberattacks.  However, using these low-level retaliatory attacks, we can at least make a point.  I think going after the Great Firewall of China would be especially effective.

Consequently, Jack Goldsmith, also of Lawfare, expressed a similar idea in a Washington Post op-ed.  

Check out the rest of the review here.

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Authors

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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. She is the 2018-9 Editor in Chief of the Syracuse Law Review, as well as a member of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

Anna Maria Castillois 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography

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