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Podcast: Can governments protect us from dangerous software bugs?


Transcript

Listen: We've probably all felt the slight annoyance at prompts we receive to update our devices. But these updates deliver vital patches to our software, protecting us from bad actors. Governments around the world are increasingly interested in monitoring when dangerous bugs are discovered as a means to protect citizens. But would such regulation have the intended effect?

In season 2, episode 5 of Patching the System, we focus on the international system of bringing peace and security online. In this episode, we look at how software vulnerabilities are discovered and reported, what government regulators can and can't do, and the strength of a coordinated disclosure process, among other solutions.

Our participants are:

  • Dustin Childs, Head of Threat Awareness at the Zero Day Initiative at Trend Micro
  • Serge Droz from the Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams (FIRST)
  • Ali Wyne, Eurasia Group Senior Analyst (moderator)
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And the suspected leaker is ...

On Thursday afternoon, the FBI arrested a suspect in the most damaging US intel leak in a decade, identifying him as Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard. Teixeira was reportedly the leader of an online gaming chat group, where he had been allegedly sharing classified files for three years. If convicted of violating the US Espionage Act, he could spend the rest of his life behind bars. Teixeira will appear in a Boston court on Friday.

We know that the chat group was made up of mostly male twentysomethings that loved guns, racist online memes, and, of course, video games. We don’t know what motivated the leaks, what other classified material the leaker had, or whether any of the docs were divulged to a foreign intelligence agency.

Arresting a suspect, though, is just the beginning of damage control for the Pentagon and the Biden administration. Although the content of the leaks surprised few within the broader intel community, many might not have realized the extent to which the US spies on its allies.

Uncle Sam obviously would’ve preferred to have intercepted the message this scandal sends to America’s enemies: US intel is not 100% secure.

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Now that President Biden has signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill, what's next for infrastructure?

The President this week signed a significant new investment in infrastructure, about $550 billion beyond the money that's already being spent in the baseline levels for the US infrastructure, and this is a big investment. It about doubles how much money the US spends on infrastructure over the next five years, and the money's going to go to all kinds of places, roads, bridges, tunnels, water projects, broadband deployment for Americans, climate resiliency, electric vehicles. There's a lot of different things that are going to be funded by this pot of cash.

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That ended late last Friday when Congress passed the first of two major fiscal bills President Joe Biden campaigned on. “We did something that’s long overdue, that long has been talked about in Washington, but never actually been done,” Biden said on Saturday.

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