Days ahead of the implementation of a sweeping European privacy law, debate is swirling on whether the measure will have negative consequences for cybersecurity.

The controversy is about the so-called internet address book, or WHOIS directory, which up to now has been a public database identifying the owners of websites and domains.

The database will become largely private under the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation set to take effect May 25, since it contains protected personal information.

U.S. government officials and some cybersecurity professionals fear that without the ability to easily find hackers and other malicious actors through WHOIS, the new rules could lead to a surge in cybercrime, spam and fraud.

Critics say the GDPR could take away an important tool used by law enforcement, security researchers, journalists and others.

The lockdown of the WHOIS directory comes after years of negotiations between EU authorities and ICANN, the nonprofit entity that administers the database and manages the online domain system.

ICANN — the Internet Corporations for Assigned Names and Numbers — approved a temporary plan last week that allows access for “legitimate” purposes, but leaves the interpretation to internet registrars, the companies that sell domains and websites.

Negative impact on cybersecurity

Assistant Commerce Secretary David Redl, who head the U.S. government division for internet administration, last week called on the EU to delay enforcement of the GDPR for the WHOIS directory.

“The loss of access to WHOIS information will negatively affect law enforcement of cybercrimes, cybersecurity and intellectual property rights protection activities globally,” Redl said.

Rob Joyce, who served as White House cybersecurity coordinator until last month, tweeted in April that “GDPR is going to undercut a key tool for identifying malicious domains on the internet,” adding that “cyber criminals are celebrating GDPR.”

Caleb Barlow, vice president at IBM security, also warned that the privacy law “may well have negative consequences that, ironically, run contrary to its original intent.”

Source: The Japan Times