Lawyers threaten researcher over key-cloning bug in high-security lock

Critical vulnerabilities in a market-leading line of digital locks securing hospitals, airports, and water treatment facilities makes it possible for rogue employees or outside attackers to clone digital keys, researchers reported late last week.

Thursday's advisory from security firm IOActive is notable not only for the serious security issues it reported in the CyberLock line of access control systems, which are certified to meet a wide range of US governmental requirements and certifications. The report is also the topic of a legal threat from CyberLock attorneys who invoked draconian provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act if IOActive disclosed the vulnerabilities. A redacted version of a letter CyberLock outside attorneys sent IOActive researcher Mike Davis has reignited a long-standing tension between whether it should be legally permissible for researchers to publicly disclose unfixed vulnerabilities in the products they test.

"Of course, as you know, the public reporting of security vulnerabilities can have significant consequences," Jeff Rabkin, a partner at the Jones Day law firm wrote in a letter dated April 29, one day before IOActive published the advisory. "[Redacted company name] also takes the protection and enforcement of its intellectual property rights seriously and, prior to any public reporting, wants to ensure that there has been no violation of those rights, including [redacted company name]'s license agreements or other intellectual property laws such as the anticircumvention provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Presumably, IOActive is aligned with ensuring responsible disclosure and compliance with the laws."

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