US fails to renegotiate arms control rule for hacking tools

FILE PHOTO In this photo taken Dec. 22, 2015, a portion of a page from the Federal Register is photographed in Washington on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015. The U.S. government is reworking a rule that would determine how, and if, cyber intrusion software, commercially used to test and secure networks, can be transferred to non-Americans after industry groups and lawmakers raised fears that "overly broad" language will have unintended negative consequences for national cyber security and research. As one of the 41 member countries of the longtime Wassenaar Arrangement, which governs the abstruse world of export controls for arms and certain technologies, the United States agreed in 2013 to restrict hacking and surveillance tools or “intrusion software” that could fall into the hands of repressive regimes. The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security came out with proposed language, which denied the transfer of "offensive tools," defined as software that uses "zero-day," or unpatched new vulnerabilities, and "rootkit" abilities that allow a person administrator-level access to a system. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Obama administration has failed to renegotiate portions of an international arms control arrangement so that it’s simpler to export tools related to hacking and surveillance software.

These same technologies, which bad actors can exploit, are also used to secure computer networks.

The rare reconsideration of a rule agreed to in 2013 by 41 countries was derailed at the plenary’s annual December meeting in Vienna.

It will be up to Donald Trump’s administration whether the U.S. pushes for revisions again next year.

Industry groups and lawmakers have argued that the current arrangement intended to limit shipment of hacking tools overseas could hinder cybersecurity and research.

The rule falls under the 1996 Wassenaar Arrangement, which governs export controls for arms and certain technologies.


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