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Summary of CyberCrime treaty discussions

Below is a summary of all Editorial Board discussions of the Council
of Europe's "Draft Convention on Cyber-Crime" treaty.

Response from Editorial Board members

There are currently 26 different organizations represented by Board

  - 10 actively participated in creating a response

  - 4 members have publicly or privately expressed support for
    creating a response

  - 3 members have expressed no opinion

  - 9 members have not responded to my personal emails and/or email
    sent to the entire list.

Since two of the 4 supporting members can only support this response
privately at this time, we can only be certain that 12 of the 26 might
be able to sign something.  One of the non-public supporters suggested
that it may be easier to show public support if the Board statement is
focused entirely on the technical concerns.

However, given that even a majority has not been reached, it is
probably inappropriate to present a statement that has occurred from
the Board as a whole.  I have discussed the issue of Board
representation with MITRE management.  At this time, we believe that
it is not appropriate to make a statement "as the Board" without full
support (or a definite "no opinion") from all members.  However, we
could present the position as "members of the Editorial Board."  While
some Board members believe that a full statement by the Board itself
would lend additional legitimacy and strength to the statement, any
disclaimers in the statement could weaken its impact as well.

Relevant Extracts from the Treaty

Here is a short description of the relevant portions of the treaty, as
deemed relevant by one or more Board members.


Treaty - http://conventions.coe.int/treaty/en/projets/cybercrime.htm

Article - http://wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,36047,00.html

The "Council of Europe" released the draft treaty "for public
discussion in order to enhance the consultation process with
interested parties, whether public or private. Businesses and
associations are particularly encouraged to share their comments with
the experts involved in the negotiations."

Extracts from Article 1 - Definitions:

  a.  "computer system" means any device or a group of inter-connected
       devices, which pursuant to a program performs automatic
       processing of data [or any other function]

  b.  "computer data" means:
       - any representation of facts, information or concepts in a
       form suitable for processing in a computer system, or
       - set of instructions suitable to cause a computer system to
         perform a function
       - [a footnote says: "The concept of computer data includes
         computer programs"]

Article 2 advocates defining legislation against illegal access: "the
  access to the whole or any part of a computer system without
  right. A Party may require that the offence be committed either by
  infringing security measures or with the intent of obtaining
  computer data or other dishonest intent."

Article 3 advocates legislation against illegal "interception without
  right, made by technical means, of non-public (7) transmissions of
  computer data"

Article 4 advocates legislation against "data interference," and
  Article 5 describes "system interference."  Both of them describe
  "the damaging, deletion, deterioration, alteration or suppression of
  computer data."

Article 6 is of greatest concern to the Board members who have
discussed the issue.  It advocates legislation that prohibits "the
production... procurement... or distribution" of:

      1. "a device, including a computer program, designed or
          adapted...  for the purpose of committing any of the
          offences established in accordance with Article 2 - 5"
      2. "a computer password, access code, or similar data by which
          the whole or any part of a computer system is capable of
          being accessed with intent that it be used for the purpose
          of committing the offences established in Articles 2 - 5"

Article 6 also describes the following as a criminal offense: "the
possession of an item referred to in paragraphs (a)(1) and (2) above,
with intent that it be used for the purpose of committing the offenses
established in Articles 2 - 5."
Article 7 describes "Computer-related Forgery" and advocates
legislation against "the input, alteration, deletion, or suppression
of computer data, resulting in inauthentic data with the intent that
it be considered or acted upon for legal purposes as if it were
authentic."  Article 8 uses similar language but applies it to
computer-related fraud.

Article 11 encourages legislation against "Attempt and aiding and

   a.attempt to commit any of the offences established in accordance
     with Articles [garbled text]

   b.aiding or abetting the commission of any of the offences
     established in accordance with Articles 2 - 10 above.

Other articles describe child pornography (article 9), copyright
violations (article 10), corporate liability (article 12), and the
requirement of sanctions (article 13).

There are two more sections in the treaty which deal more with
procedural issues.  Sections 2 and 3 (articles 14 - 19) are related to
procedural law and jurisdiction.  Chapter III (articles 20 - 29)
relate to how the parties will cooperate, e.g. with respect to
extradition, data preservation, etc.


The following is a summary of the discussion threads that have
occurred on the Editorial Board mailing list and in private email.
There are 2 primary subjects: specific issues with the treaty, and the
role of the Editorial Board in commenting on it.

At a high level, participating Board members agreed that article 6, as
written, is too vague; thus it could inadvertently limit legitimate
study.  Participants also agreed that it is difficult or impossible to
be able to distinguish between legitimate tools and malicious ones,
and that often a tool that could be used maliciously is also an
important resource for legitimate uses such as research and auditing.

Members did not agree as to whether the treaty's language allowed
legitimate use of tools that could be tailored to malicious purposes;
legal counsel would be helpful in this regard.  The phrase "without
right" used in articles 2 and 3 was particularly problematic.  Some
members suggested that exploit code shouldn't be made illegal, but
rather how it is used, i.e. somehow associating it with the person's

All Board members who expressed an opinion, publicly on the list or
privately, agreed that this aspect of the treaty is an important issue
that needs to be addressed.

There is some disagreement regarding how the Board should present
their comments.  While there hasn't been as much discussion on this
topic, it appears that most Board members believe that it is
appropriate for the Board to make a statement.  However, one or two
Board members have expressed concerns that a statement could conflict
with the opinion of their own companies, who may be evaluating this
topic independently.  Others have submitted this treaty to their
lawyers for review.


Adam Shostack

  - At Netect/Bindview, they created exploit code to show new
    vulnerabilities, and occasionally distributed it to others.  He
    believes this could violate the treaty as proposed.

Stuart Staniford

  - "There is no practical way to distinguish exploit code used for
     legitimate scanning, testing, and research, and that used for
     crimes...  we are obliged to follow the law and [crackers]

Steve Christey

  - criminalization of exploit code could affect CVE, since exploits
    often help you distinguish between two very similar bugs.

Adam Shostack

  - treaty has a lack of clarity that "has a clear potential to chill

Stuart Staniford

  - The Nessop [probably a reference to Nessus] freeware scanner
    contains exploit code that could be outlawed, despite its
    usefulness to white hats

Russ Cooper

  - the "without right" text in Article 2 appears to allow legitimate
    parties to attack their own systems and/or others who have

  - there may be precedents in which something that *could* be used
    for malicious purposes isn't necessarily made illegal,
    e.g. fertilizer

  - agrees that it's difficult to distinguish between intentionally
    malicious and legitimate attacks/exploits, e.g. exempting
    "research" from liability could make the treaty "ineffective
    against a larger portion of potential attackers (e.g. students)."

  - too many restrictions could cause the industry to lose "the assets
    that the brilliant student minds bring to the business"

Stuart Staniford

  - because this is a treaty, each country will draft and implement
    their own laws

  - the treaty should exclude tools, because it "won't work and will
    do far more harm than good."

  - suggests making it a crime to distribute an exploit without
    sufficient notice to vendors

David LeBlanc

  - agrees that the treaty is overly vague

  - this could ultimately result in registration/licensing of security
    professionals, who would be the only ones legally allowed to
    possess such tools - e.g. locksmiths

  - this treaty may not apply to non-malicious tools, i.e. those that
    identify vulnerabilities but don't exploit them.  However,
    sometimes the only reliable way to check for the presence of a
    vulnerability is to actually exploit it

  - so, don't make the code itself illegal, but how people use it

Matt Bishop

  - agrees that this treaty would only constrict the white hats - "it
    hobbles us without affecting the malevolent ones."

  - the "possession [with malicious intent]" phrase in Article 6 could
    make password crackers illegal

  - he uses exploit tools in his classes, as a way of teaching
    computer security

  - believes that making exploit code illegal could be constitutional
    (i.e. not prohibited by the U.S. Constitution), and observed that
    the seizure of Iranian assets during the 1980's could be a

David LeBlanc

  - agrees with Stuart that the treaty should be changed in the early

  - could utilize political resources currently available to
    individual Board members to garner support

Jim Magdych

  - believes that there is legal precedent which defends source code
    as free speech
    - is this the Bernstein/Junger case alluded to by Adam Shostack?

  - "needs to be a clear distinction between the distribution of
     demonstration code and the distribution or use (with malicious
     intent) of exploits."

  - agrees with LeBlanc's locksmith analogy, but also uses gun
    possession - the possession is not the crime, but rather the
    misuse of the gun

David LeBlanc

  - Article 6 is vague with respect to defining illegal devices.
    Programs that intercept data may be used by system/network
    administrators for normal administration duties.

  - "a part of normal security administration involves using tools
     which are designed to obtain unauthorized access to determine
     which portions of your own network may be vulnerable.  Making
     these programs illegal would severely hinder our ability to test
     our defenses against the activities defined in articles 2-5."

  - believes that the clause regarding possession of passwords does
    not require criminal intent

Mike Prosser

  - vagueness is also a concern to him

  - the charter doesn't identify what the legal uses of the tools are

Craig Ozancin

  - has sent the treaty onto his legal people for their consideration

Russ Cooper

  - Articles 2-5 imply criminal intent, but legitimate tools such as
    router mappers, or utilities that collect usage statistics or
    stress testing, are forbidden if executed "without right."

  - Article 6 effectively requires that a program/tool needs to
    demonstrate a rightful purpose.  A program which is hard-coded to
    attack a particular system might be a violation, but if it takes
    IP addresses as arguments, could be regarded as having a rightful

  - any demonstration code could be defended as having a rightful
    purpose if people can use it to test the vulnerabilities in their
    own systems; e.g. the EICAR test file for anti-virus programs

  - so, we must better articulate what "without right" means

Adam Shostack

  - since this is treaty language, we should ensure that the language
    "unambiguously supports" the right interpretation of "without

  - even if a tool is created or executed "without right," Adam wants
    to be able to legally analyze it, e.g. to determine if it uses any
    new techniques

  - the openness helps the white hats to keep better track of black
    hat trends; "we don't need to see the underground driven back to
    silence by fear."

Russ Cooper

  - the treaty will effectively drive the black hats back underground,
    but some aspects of the underground should be criminalized to
    discourage some activities

  - a "special dispensation" clause could be added which effectively
    allows some organizations/individuals to possess/use otherwise
    prohibited tools, but this would make it attractive to the black
    - some types of bombs can be made by anybody, but other types
      require licensing; some become illegal only when associated with
      terrorist materials

  - believes that "society is none-to-pleased with the idea that we
    might be fostering, encouraging, or even accepting of the actions
    of [underground elements]" despite their contributions to white
    hats, e.g. Mudge.

  - currently, some underground people can be in high demand by
    security companies and other organizations, because of their

Mike Prosser

  - also sent to his lawyers for review

Jim Magdych

  - the statement should be "presented as a guide to clearer language
    on the subject"

Andy Balinsky

  - international treaties can be difficult to change once ratified,
    so modifications to this proposal should be made early

Dave Mann

  - the Board should consult with lawyers or other experts in
    international treaties

  - what happens if one country makes exploit code illegal, while
    another one doesn't?  If the treaty is ambiguous, it could result
    in countries having inconsistent approaches.

  - suggests that we gain a broader international and governmental
    perspective, e.g. with policy makers

Stuart Staniford

  - presented an initial draft for the treaty


Adam Shostack

  - Advocates making a Board-level statement

Stuart Staniford

  - Supports the Board making a statement

Steve Christey

  - may be difficult to get consensus on a statement from the entire
    Board, as some Board members may disagree with the statement

Adam Shostack

  - the Board may be able to agree that laws that should not stifle
    CVE and other information sharing efforts

David LeBlanc

  - Board representation: we should not require unanimous consent,
    rather a quorum.  Or, list the Board members who contributed to
    the response.  But should try to reach a consensus where possible.

Steve Christey

  - all or most Board members should be aware of this issue

  - not all Board members will necessarily agree with a statement

  - a general statement may be agreeable to contributing members

Steve Christey

  - some Board members have expressed concerns with making a statement
    as the Board.  We could adopt a statement that is signed and
    advocated by Board members, but which is not a statement of the
    Board itself

Dave Mann

  - if there is a dissenting opinion, capture/include that with a

Adam Shostack

  - a statement by the entire Board would be stronger than one that is
    merely adopted by a portion

  - suggests a disclaimer that further disassociates the individual
    contributors from their organizations

David LeBlanc

  - want to be able to allow the Board to "speak" in some ways even if
    there isn't full consensus

  - the Board probably cannot achieve full consensus on any issue


Active Contributors

The following Board members have sent comments to the Editorial Board
mailing list that are directly related to the issues at hand.

Adam Shostack
Scott Blake
Andy Balinsky
Dave Mann
Stuart Staniford
Russ Cooper
Jim Magdych
David LeBlanc
Mike Prosser

Other Interested Members

These members have expressed an interest in the proceedings but due to
various reasons, they are not participating actively at this time.

Craig Ozancin
Andre Frech
Tom Stracener
Steve Northcutt

Anonymous Members

Some members have sent correspondence directly to me, and not to the
Board list.  I have recorded their positions below.  Some of these
members may have made other comments to the Board list.

One Board member is reviewing the issue internally.  Their current
interpretation is that it only affects the use of tools with intent to
commit a crime, so it is not necessarily a problem.  They may ask
their own lawyers for an interpretation of the treaty.

One Board member has expressed a concern with the Editorial Board as a
whole making a statement.  That member does not have the authority to
speak for their organization and is concerned that their organization
might appear to support the statement by virtue of their affiliation
with the Board.

One Board member does not see a problem with having their organization
support an item, but they would need to see the exact words.  They
suggested that we could take the same approach as was taken with the
"DDoS Roadmap" in which various Board members contributed, but the
Board as a whole was not formally recognized.

Another Board member privately supports a unified Board effort, but
cannot speak for their company either.  This member agreed that the
treaty needs to be changed to remove some of the vagueness.

Two Board members have confirmed that they are aware of the situation,
but they did not provide any additional feedback.

Page Last Updated or Reviewed: May 22, 2007