US to rethink hacker tool export rules after mass freakout in security land

Second draft of Wassenaar to take public comments under advisory


Proposed changes to the US government's export controls on hacking tools will likely be scaled back following widespread criticism from the infosec community, a government spokesman has said.

"A second iteration of this regulation will be promulgated," a spokesman for the US Department of Commerce told Reuters, "and you can infer from that that the first one will be withdrawn."

The proposed restrictions are required by the Wassenaar Arrangement, a 41-nation pact that first came into effect in 1996 and which calls for limits on trade of "dual-use goods," meaning items that have both civilian and military applications.

In 2013, the list of goods governed under the Arrangement was amended to include technologies used for testing, penetrating, and exploiting vulnerabilities in computer systems and networks.

Each company participating in the Arrangement is responsible for implementing the required export controls as it sees fit, but the rules proposed by the US were more sweeping than those put forth by other countries.

Security experts have complained that the language of the new rules, which the Commerce Department has made available for public comment since May, is overly broad and could have a chilling effect on the entire information security industry.

Because the rules would make it unlawful to export hacking tools outside of their country of origin, researchers worry that they will no longer have access to the tools they use to spot vulnerabilities in software and networks.

Just as bad, researchers fear that when they do discover security flaws, the proposed Wassenaar rules might even make it impossible for them to present their findings at security conferences, because even uploading their code to a foreign server would be illegal.

The Commerce Department spokesman, who declined to give his name, told Reuters that the decision to produce a second draft of the proposed rules was the direct result of feedback obtained during the public comment period, which yielded hundreds of comments.

"All of those comments will be carefully reviewed and distilled, and the authorities will determine how the regulations should be changed," the spokesman said.

No timeline for the next round of the process was given. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021