The Guardian reports that the FBI is trying to drill yet another hole in the 4th Amendment, this time by going to an obscure federal commission to get the wording of a regulation changed that would make it easier for them to hack into your computer.
The FBI is attempting to persuade an obscure regulatory body in Washington to change its rules of engagement in order to seize significant new powers to hack into and carry out surveillance of computers throughout the US and around the world.
Civil liberties groups warn that the proposed rule change amounts to a power grab by the agency that would ride roughshod over strict limits to searches and seizures laid out under the fourth amendment of the US constitution, as well as violate first amendment privacy rights. They have protested that the FBI is seeking to transform its cyber capabilities with minimal public debate and with no congressional oversight…
But under the proposed amendment, a judge can issue a warrant that would allow the FBI to hack into any computer, no matter where it is located. The change is designed specifically to help federal investigators carry out surveillance on computers that have been “anonymized” – that is, their location has been hidden using tools such as Tor.
The amendment inserts a clause that would allow a judge to issue warrants to gain “remote access” to computers “located within or outside that district” (emphasis added) in cases in which the “district where the media or information is located has been concealed through technological means”. The expanded powers to stray across district boundaries would apply to any criminal investigation, not just to terrorist cases as at present.Were the amendment to be granted by the regulatory committee, the FBI would have the green light to unleash its capabilities – known as “network investigative techniques” – on computers across America and beyond. The techniques involve clandestinely installing malicious software, or malware, onto a computer that in turn allows federal agents effectively to control the machine, downloading all its digital contents, switching its camera or microphone on or off, and even taking over other computers in its network.
“This is an extremely invasive technique,” said Chris Soghoian, principal technologist of the American Civil Liberties Union, who will also be addressing the hearing. “We are talking here about giving the FBI the green light to hack into any computer in the country or around the world.”
They justify this by claiming it’s necessary to fight terrorists, but if that were true then why aren’t they limiting it only to terrorism investigations? For the same reason they didn’t limit the use of sneak and peek warrants to terrorism, because they intend to use that power in routine criminal cases as well. Sneak and peek warrants over the last three years were used about 11,000 times by the FBI, only 51 of them involving terrorism. It’s just another power grab and another nail in the coffin of the 4th Amendment.