The CyberWire Daily Podcast 3.1.16
Ep 46 | 3.1.16

RSA updates. US opens anti-ISIS cyber offensive. Industry consolidation?


Dave Bittner: [00:00:03:21] RSA updates, including trends and automation, anomaly detection, and threat intelligence with an explanation of what counts as actionable. Elsewhere, the US says it's going after ISIS communications in cyberspace. ISIS sets out to deface Google, but defaces something else. Analysts see cyber sector consolidation coming, and we talk to the University of Maryland's Markus Rauschecker on Apple's invocation of both the First and Fifth Amendments in their dispute with the FBI.

Dave Bittner: [00:00:33:20] This podcast is made possible by the economic alliance of Greater Baltimore helping Maryland lead the nation in cyber security with a large, highly qualified work-force: 20,000 job openings, investment opportunities and proximity to key buyers. Learn more at

Dave Bittner: [00:00:54:10] I'm Dave Bittner in San Francisco with your CyberWire summary for Tuesday, March 1st, 2016.

Dave Bittner: [00:01:00:23] We're at RSA today podcasting, and a bit late because we're on Pacific time in San Francisco, the city by the other Bay. From the floor of the world's leading cyber security conference and exposition, we'll take a look at the Conference's first day events, and we'll offer our customary rundown on cyber news from around the world.

Dave Bittner: [00:01:18:11] Yesterday's proceedings at RSA culminated in the announcement of 2016's innovation Sandbox winner. This year, Phantom Cyber carried the prize away with what it describes as the first purpose built community powered security automation and orchestration. We'll have more with Phantom and their product later this week when we sit down for an exclusive interview. In the meantime, congratulations also to the other finalists who did very well indeed to come as far as they did: Bastille; Illusive; Menlo Security; Prevoty; Protectwise; Safebreach; Skyport Systems; Vera and Versa Networks. Our talks with companies exhibiting at RSA suggests that some of the common themes on people's minds include the importance of context and actionability in the development of threat intelligence. AJ Shipley from LookingGlass put it this way.

AJ Shipley: [00:02:08:02] What you see in abundance of is threat data, but it actually doesn't become intelligence until some really smart person who has years of experience and years of training is able to derive the little bits that are relevant to an organization or derive the little bits that are relevant to an industry that can also be handed to a person or a process or a technology, that once handed to them and some action is taken, the overall risk to an organization has been materially minimized down to a certain level that is now tolerable.

Dave Bittner: [00:02:40:00] Attribution of attacks is generally regarded as less important except in so far as it can reveal information about threat actors motivations, tactics, techniques and procedures, and understanding these can usefully inform the organization of defenses. The number of people working on integrating anomaly detection in defensive schemes is also striking. We'll have more detailed accounts and interviews with some of the most interesting companies on the exhibit floor in an upcoming special edition of our podcast.

Dave Bittner: [00:03:08:13] Turning from RSA to the larger cyber world, the US appears to have opened a major cyber offensive against ISIS. The Department of Defense announces that offensive cyber operations are now being undertaken against ISIS communications infrastructure in Syria. The direct and unusually public avowal of a cyber operations campaign is accompanied by suggestions that cyberattacks are being carried out in conjunction with special operations forces working in the theater. US Secretary of Defense Carter, has also returned to California in a continuing effort to enlist the technical support of the IT industry in the war against ISIS. The caliphate itself hasn't been idle either, continuing information operations at which it excels and cyberattacks against ill-chosen or poorly defended targets, at which it has been less than fully successful. Choice of target continues to baffle observers. Recent victims have included a solar panel manufacturer in Sussex and, as Newsweek notes, a Japanese dance instructor and a laminate flooring firm based in Wales. They've also defaced a company called Ad Google Online apparently mistaking it for the real Google. But there's no mystery to this really. It's opportunistic hacktivism modulated by limited understanding of the target's culture.

Dave Bittner: [00:04:23:01] Apple has continued to prepare its brief in response to the FBI's request for assistance under the All Writs Act. That brief is widely expected to invoke the First and Fifth Amendments. We spoke with University of Maryland, legal and policy expert, Markus Rauschecker who explained the general outlines of Apple's expected arguments for us. We'll hear from him after the break. The FBI's case, incidentally, may have been weakened by a decision in a New York drug trial in which investigators had made a similar request. The Federal Magistrate denied the request.

Dave Bittner: [00:04:53:05] In industry news, observers continue to look for more consolidation in the cyber security sector and insurance seems ready to assume its expected place in cyber risk management.

Dave Bittner: [00:05:05:15] This CyberWire podcast is made possible by the generous support of Recorded Future, the real time threat intelligence company whose patented web intelligence engine continuously analyses the entire web to help information security analysts stay ahead of cyberattacks. Learn more at

Dave Bittner: [00:05:26:07] Joining me is Markus Rauschecker from the University of Maryland Center for Help and Homeland Security and one of our academic and research partners. Markus, the story continues with Apple and their efforts against the FBI. This week, Apple's been making some arguments that are centered around the First Amendment and the Fifth Amendment. Fill us in on what's going on here.

Markus Rauschecker: [00:05:45:17] Apple have made some interesting arguments in their motion to vacate that Court Order. Part of the argument circles around the First Amendment argument, and this is quite interesting because there are some Court decisions out there that equate computer codes to speech, and if that is the case what we're seeing here in this Order that would compel Apple to write computer code to help the FBI get access to a phone, would be equivalent to the government compelling speech from Apple and that of course then becomes a First Amendment issue. When we have a First Amendment issue where government is compelling speech from an individual, or from a group, there are some flags that go up right away. Specifically, if government is going to compel speech, there's a test that must be undergone and you have to look at the request from the government and apply some strict scrutiny to this test and make sure that the request is narrowly tailored to obtain a compelling government interest.

Markus Rauschecker: [00:06:53:03] Apple is saying that while the government certainly has a compelling state interest in its request, their request isn't reasonable in that there is no real evidence, Apple is saying, that what government might find on the phone, that they're trying to access, will actually be of any use. Furthermore, when government asks that Apple writes software to access the phone, Apple is arguing that this is fundamentally contrary to the view that Apple holds which is that privacy is an important value and data privacy for the devices and for the customers that it has ought to be protected. So, Apple is arguing that this really is a viewpoint discrimination on the government's part and, therefore, is unconstitutional. The request, the Court Order would be unconstitutional and a violation of the First Amendment.

Dave Bittner: [00:07:44:05] So, that covers the First Amendment, parts of it, but Apple is also invoking the Fifth Amendment.

Markus Rauschecker: [00:07:49:10] That's correct. Apple is invoking the Fifth Amendment as well, and that is somewhat surprising. Some commentators had expected Apple to make a First Amendment argument, but now we're seeing Apple make a Fifth Amendment argument too. Apple is saying that the government request to compel them to assist them into getting into the iPhone would be a violation of due process which is guaranteed under the Fifth Amendment. Basically, Apple is arguing that it has a right to be free from arbitrary deprivation of its liberty from government, and Apple is saying that there are no statutory authorizations that would give the government the power to ask of Apple what it is asking in this case. Furthermore, the request is highly burdensome on Apple, Apple is arguing. Finally, the request is fundamentally contrary to Apple's core beliefs about privacy. So, given all these reasons, Apple is arguing that the request really is a violation of the Fifth Amendment's due process clause.

Dave Bittner: [00:08:53:18] So, it's important for everyone to keep in mind that there's more at stake than this individual iPhone.

Markus Rauschecker: [00:08:58:10] I believe so. I mean, this is an argument that Apple has made all along that if the Court Order is upheld to compel Apple to assist in accessing this iPhone in this particular case, a similar Court Order would be to request it on the government's behalf in other cases down the road.

Dave Bittner: [00:09:16:05] Markus Rauschecker, thanks for joining us...

Dave Bittner: [00:09:21:11] And that's the CyberWire. For links to all of today's stories along with interviews, our glossary, and more visit The CyberWire podcast is produced by CyberPoint International. Our Editor is John Petrik. I'm Dave Bittner. We'll be at RSA this week covering the Conference with special issues and podcasts. If you're in San Francisco, drop by our booth 11-45 in the Moscone Center, South Hall, and say, "Hello." While supplies last, we'll even give you a swell pen for free and for keeps. We hope to see you there, and thanks for listening.