EFF sues the NSA to disclose use of software security flaws

The EFF filed suit against the NSA and ODNI Tuesday, seeking information about zero-day flaws

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a prominent digital privacy rights group, has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. National Security Agency to get it to specify the extent to which it might exploit software security flaws.

The EFF said Tuesday it had filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to gain access to documents showing how intelligence agencies choose whether to disclose software security flaws known as "zero days." These early stage flaws are typically discovered by researchers but are not yet patched by developers or the company. A market has even sprung up around the flaws, in which governments will purchase the vulnerabilities to gain access to people's computers, EFF said.

Not disclosing zero-day flaws jeopardizes people's data and communications, the EFF has argued.

The suit comes amid concerns and accusations that government agencies, including but not limited to the NSA, may be exploiting these vulnerabilities for intelligence-gathering processes without the public's awareness.

In April, Bloomberg News reported that the NSA had used the then-recently disclosed "Heartbleed" security bug to gather intelligence for at least two years before it was discovered by others. The NSA said the report was incorrect.

The EFF had filed a Freedom of Information Act request in May related to these processes, but still has not received any documents, despite Intelligence Director James Clapper's office agreeing to expedite the request, the group said Tuesday.

"This [suit] seeks transparency on one of the least understood elements of the U.S. intelligence community's toolset: security vulnerabilities," said Andrew Crocker, EFF legal fellow, in a statement. "These documents are important to the kind of informed debate that the public and the administration agree needs to happen in our country."

A spokeswoman for the NSA declined to comment. The intelligence director's office did not immediately respond to comment.

Following disclosures made last year by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, intelligence agencies' techniques have come under much scrutiny. In addition to their possible exploitation of software vulnerabilities, whether agencies can exploit weaknesses in encryption has also sparked concern.

As a result many large companies like Google and Microsoft have bolstered their use of encryption technology in recent months.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Tags securitydata protectioninternetprivacyElectronic Frontier Foundation

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Zach Miners

IDG News Service

Comments

Comments are now closed.

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?