An international deal limiting the export of anti-hacking technologies could hamper national security, House lawmakers say. Currently, the Obama Administration is in the process of renegotiating the Wessenaar Arrangement, a 41-nation agreement restricting the export of “dual-use” technologies to keep them from ending up in the wrong hands such as repressive regimes. In this particular case, lawmakers are worried this international deal limiting the export of anti-hacking technologies “could restrict companies’ ability to use legitimate tools to test and fortify their own defenses” and now, even handicap the Pentagon. “The committee believes restricting export of these technologies may negatively impact use of such products for national security purposes,” read the House version of the 2017 defense spending bill.
Originally in 2013, the State Department agreed to amendments to the Wassenaar Arrangement which expanded the list of restricted technologies to include such intrusion software. The original thought was that these digital hacking and surveillance tools could be used by repressive regimes to crack down on journalists and dissidents, the Hill explains in a recent article. However, after the Obama Administration attempted to implement these policies, it experienced fierce resistance from both the security community and lawmakers. Arguing that the arrangement defines “intrusion software” too broadly, effective and legitimate cybersecurity tools would be banned from defending networks against hackers. “While well-intentioned, the Wassenaar Arrangement’s ‘intrusion software’ control was imprecisely drafted, and it has become evident that there is simply no way to interpret the plain language of the text in a way that does not sweep up a multitude of important security products,” explained Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), a key player in pressing the State Department to renegotiate the Wessenaar Arrangement’s terms.