From today and on, US law and intelligence agencies will have an easy time hacking into computers all over the world.
The changes that were suggested for Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure by the United States Department of Justice took effect last Thursday. There were efforts to block the changes but they were all proved futile on Wednesday.
The new rules allow the FBI to exercise more powers when it comes to hacking into multiple computers in the US itself, and the world at large.
All they need is a warrant from any judge in the US including magistrates. In normal cases, magistrates have limited jurisdiction.
The FBI first did this in 2015 during its investigation into child porn on the site Playpen. The agency hacked into over 8700 computers across the world in 120 countries.
Rule 41 keeps the FBI and law agencies from getting into PCs without permission. But, the Supreme Court approved some changes in April that give such agencies power to hack any PC in the US and outside.
Democrat Senator Ron Wyden tried to bar the changes from going through about three times. The changes risk people hiding their whereabouts with Tor, a VPN or any software that makes users anonymous. Senator John Cornyn of Texas however successfully blocked Sen. Ron.
On one end are legal experts and those advocating for privacy. They look at the changes as a large extension of extraterritorial surveillance power that will enable the FBI and such agencies to conduct global hacking with more ease.
qOn the other hand are the DOJ who argue that the new alterations made to the rule will make it easy to understand modern criminals, allowing law enforcers to have access to computers whose location has been hidden using software.
In a blog post that was published last week, the Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell pointed out these issues were she stated that criminals using Tor or VPNs to hide their actual locations make it hard for law agencies to identify their location.
“In such cases, therefore, the rules do not clearly identify which court the investigators should seek a warrant from,” wrote Caldwell.
But what would be the result of the FBI getting into botnet victims instead of the perpetrators? Or is there a possibility of the government abusing this power to attack nations?
Wyden stated the new changes were the most serious surveillance policy mistake in many years. This gives federal agencies power to get into any device without their knowledge.
Others opposing the move have expressed worries that the FBI would have unending ability to hack unknowing victims whose devices have been attacked with botnet malware. Even those that keep their identity hidden online are at risk.