The Center for Democracy and Technology has put together an important letter from experts on the importance of security research. This may sound obvious, but increasingly we're seeing attacks on security researchers, where the messenger is blamed for finding and/or disclosing bad security practices or breaches -- and that makes us all less safe by creating chilling effects.
On April 10, 2018, over fifty experts and expert advocates published a statement in support of security research and against efforts to chill or intimidate security researchers. Computer and network security research, white-hat hacking, and vulnerability disclosure are legal, legitimate, and needed now more than ever to understand flaws in the information systems that increasingly pervade our lives.
Security researchers hesitate to report vulnerabilities and weaknesses to companies for fear of facing legal retribution; these chilling effects invite the release of anonymous, public zero-day research instead of coordinated disclosure. The undersigned urge support for security researchers and reporters in their work, and decry those who oppose research and discussion of privacy and security risks. Harming these efforts harms us all.
I'm proud to have signed onto the letter, which you can read here (or embedded below). In it, we cite two legal cases in which a reporter and security researcher were sued for their work disclosing security vulnerabilities. These kinds of lawsuits are a disgrace and need to stop.
The most recent cases include Keeper v. Goodin and River City Media v. Kromtech ; in the first case, a reporter was sued for reporting on the details of a vulnerability, and in the second case a security researcher is being sued for investigating a publicly accessible spam server. These lawsuits not only endanger a free and open press but risk a “chilling effect” towards research designed to improve cybersecurity. Security researchers hesitate to report vulnerabilities and weaknesses to companies for fear of facing legal retribution; these chilling effects invite the release of anonymous, public zero-day research instead of coordinated disclosure.
It's kind of sad that this kind of letter is even needed, but these kinds of things are happening way too often.