Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

Thoughts on the Active Cyber Defense Certainty Act 2.0

On May 25, 2017, Representative Tom Graves released the second draft of proposed amendments to 18 U.S.C. 1030 (known as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act). Representative Graves’ bill is known as the Active Cyber Defense Certainty Act (or ACDC Act). There is no universally accepted umbrella term for this, but it is variously called “Active Defense”, “Active Cyber Defense”, “hacking back,” “hackback”, and “strike back.” You will find the word “active” applied almost universally in these discussions, though it frequently results in establishing a simple (though false) dichotomy of “passive defense” vs. “active defense” and frequently leading to fallacious “straw man” arguments. I prefer the term “Active Response Continuum” to explicitly avoid setting up such binary choices. [Dittrich and Himma(2005)]
Without technical knowledge and a clear contextual understanding of the criminal actions, potentially triggering legal defensive response, two paradoxes emerge. First, the “attributional technology” cited in the draft ACDC Act may not achieve its desired goals. Second, some actions disallowed by the ACDC Act include previously witnessed “strike back” actions that have motivated calls for the kind of amendments embodied in the ACDC Act. [Robinson(2017)]
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