July 28, 2015

The Government's Latest Attempt to Stop Hackers Will Only Make Cybersecurity Worse

Andrea O'Sullivan

Feature Writer
Summary

As the threat of cyberwar looms more saliently on the horizon, many countries have turned to controlling the sale of "cyberweapons." But the U.S. government's proposed cyberweapon crackdown, part of a multinational arms-export control agreement called the Wassenaar Arrangement, could be used to criminalize basic bug-testing of software and ultimately weaken Internet security.

As the threat of cyberwar looms more saliently on the horizon, many countries have turned to controlling the sale of "cyberweapons." But the U.S. government's proposed cyberweapon crackdown, part of a multinational arms-export control agreement called the Wassenaar Arrangement, could be used to criminalize basic bug-testing of software and ultimately weaken Internet security.

The Wassenaar Arrangement emerged in 1996 from a Cold War agreement to regulate the international arms trade. It is not a treaty, bound by force of law, but rather a voluntary pact between 41 major world nations, with the noticeable exceptions of China and Israel. Every few months, member nations gather and exchange information on each country’s major arms deals in eight broad weapons categories, including missile systems, armored vehicles, military aircraft, warships, and small arms. By providing a platform for member nations to transparently report on arms trades with non-Wassenaar nations, and to voluntarily prohibit trades with known human-rights violators, the Wassenaar Arrangement seeks to responsibly "contribute to international security and stability."

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