[Dailydave] Neal Stephenson, the EFF and Exploit Sales

Don Bailey don.bailey at gmail.com
Fri Aug 10 18:19:56 EDT 2012

What is interesting is that the result of opposing zero day may, in effect, destroy the "other freedoms" that the EFF supports.

If zero day sales are driven further underground due to people like EFF lobbying for regulation, other movements are likely to manifest as a result. Why not regulate the development of code as a whole? Why aren't software engineers licensed, or have government approved certifications for designing "certain types" of software? Why not fine exploit developers for breaking their engineering limitations to enforce who can or can't write zero day? That certainly may limit zero day development.

Why don't we require identification for the purchase of computing equipment so if zero day is used on a device they can be tracked? 

While these are extreme examples, our world is changing fast. We may see a shift in the near future where security consultancies are no longer allowed to write or use exploits. Maybe only specific government contractors will have infosec jobs. Or, maybe no one will. 

The fact is, it is becoming clear that there are too many kids with guns these days. 


On Aug 10, 2012, at 12:57 PM, Dave Aitel <dave at immunityinc.com> wrote:

> So your theory here is that because the EFF is calling for regulation of
> the government's ability to use 0day it has bought, that they are still
> advocating some sort of freedom? Frankly, I can't for the life of me
> understand why the EFF would take these positions - they seem counter to
> its mission, if not just completely confusing. It's like some selection
> of people at the EFF got scared that 0day exists and took a random
> position on the matter, completely ignoring that their (former) support
> base has the opposite position on the "equities issue".
> -dave
> On 8/8/12 4:01 PM, Kyle Maxwell wrote:
>> (Disclosure: I'm a rank-and-file member of the EFF but with no special
>> knowledge or access or anything.)
>> I don't read their statement the same way you do. That is, you're
>> still free as far as I can tell to write whatever code you want to
>> write. The EFF's real goal, I think, seems to be in the next sentence
>> of the post you cited:
>> "Unfortunately, if these exploits are being bought by governments for
>> offensive purposes, then there is pressure to selectively harden
>> sensitive targets while keeping the attack secret from everyone else,
>> leaving technology—and its users—vulnerable to attack."
>> So, taking these two together, what the EFF seems to advocate is that
>> vulnerabilities and such purchased with the intent to be used for
>> offensive operations should also be used in some way for defensive
>> operations. Subject to OPSEC concerns, I think this is more or less
>> correct: if we know of a bug, we know it has a limited shelf life
>> (especially once it's used). It makes sense to then transition to
>> fixing the same problem in our systems.
>> Even if I misunderstand their position, or somebody disagrees with it,
>> everybody has to decide whether the rest of the things they do
>> outweigh this corner of their policy proposals. After all, they work
>> on a lot more (and bigger) issues than just this, so for now I'm happy
>> to continue buying schwag, sending them money, and volunteering for
>> projects within my domain of expertise.
>> --
>> Kyle Maxwell [krmaxwell at gmail.com]
>> http://www.xwell.org
>> Twitter: @kylemaxwell
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