This Week In Security: Good Faith, Easy Forgery, And I18N

There’s a danger in security research that we’ve discussed a few times before. If you discover a security vulnerability on a production system, and there’s no bug bounty, you’ve likely broken a handful of computer laws. Turn over the flaw you’ve found, and you’re most likely to get a “thank you”, but there’s a tiny chance that you’ll get charged for a computer crime instead. Security research in the US is just a little safer now, as the US Department of Justice has issued a new policy stating that “good-faith security research should not be charged.”

While this is a welcome infection of good sense, it would be even better for such a protection to be codified into law. The other caveat is that this policy only applies to federal cases in the US. Other nations, or even individual states, are free to bring charges. So while this is good news, continue to be careful. There are also some caveats about what counts as good-faith — If a researcher uses a flaw discovery to extort, it’s not good-faith.
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