The Folly of Export Control

An ethical hacking student at the University of Northumbria has claimed that the university's ethics board and the Wassenaar Arrangement have forced him to delete some references to exploits from his final year dissertation [...] The Wassenaar Arrangement is a multilateral export controls agreement between 41 countries that seeks to stop the spread of conventional arms and dual-use (military and civilian) goods and technologies. Intended to prevent the proliferation of uranium enrichment and the development of chemical weapons precursors, an update to the arrangement in 2013 added "cyberweapons" to the list. (The Register)

Proponents of the idea of a digital arms control regime will point to this as a victory and that such a scheme is workable. It is not. For every student who has to submit his papers to a review panel, there are hundreds of others who do not. There are 41 signatories to the agreement; there are 195 countries in the world. The source of materials and knowledge needed to develop nuclear weapons is rare and those involved in the process largely known; anyone can code a functional digital weapon in anonymity. We should try to make life in the information age safer, but shoe-horning cold-war methodologies isn't how it will be done.