Supreme Court Grants FBI Permission To Hack Virtually Anyone

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Users of anonymity services such as Tor and VPN could be hacked as well as spied by law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, under the new law changes approved by the US Supreme Court.

The landmark judgment would give powers to the FBI to hack any computer that uses anonymity software to suppress identity, including that of cybercrime victims, anywhere in the world with the help of a single warrant.

The same judgment also consists of a harmless or non-dangerous paragraph related to users of anonymity software.

However, the implementation of the new law is subject to approval by the Congress.

The new change to the Rule 41 of the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedures that covers protocols related to search and seizure allows federal judges to issue warrants for searching computers that use anonymity software such as Tor irrespective of where they are located. Prior to the rule change, a federal magistrate judge could issue warrants only within their jurisdictions.

The US Supreme Court recommended that the Congress incorporate the change as part of the annual procedures review by the court.

Your TOR usage is being watched

A number of anonymity rights organizations and at least one of the senators termed the Supreme Court’s decision as an insult to civil rights and a step towards unchecked hacking by the government.

The Congress has time till December 2016 to either block or amend the Supreme Court’s decision on the use of anonymity services.

Ron Wyden, a Democratic Senator from Oregon, slammed the decision on Twitter and vowed to propose a bill to reverse the rule change.

Wayden also said in a statement that the amendment to Rule 41 will significantly impact the online anonymity rights of American internet users and expand the scope of powers of the government to search electronic devices and conduct remote surveillance.

Complex issues that involved digital security, privacy or anonymity and Fourth Amendment rights called for thoughtful debate as well as public vetting.

In addition, Wyden expressed concerns that the Supreme Court’s rule change would vest a great deal of power on FBI for searching millions of computers, especially those that use anonymity software.

In fact, the possibility of a large-scale hacking by the government is heightened when the FBI targets a cybercriminal network consisting of hundreds or thousands of compromised computers, referred to as a botnet.

Many of the computers in a botnet are often operated by normal citizens who would not even be aware that their computers have been compromised.

According to the US policy manager Amie Stepanovich at Access Now, the tech policy organization, the Department of Justice has been pushing the courts to bring in this amendment for many years.

Welcoming the change to the Rule 41, the department said that it would be helpful in prosecuting criminals who use anonymity services or browsers that enable anonymity.

Early last month, an Oklahoma federal judge turned down evidence, because of limitations to Rule 41, when hearing a child exploitation case.

In 2015, Google, Electronic Frontier Foundation, American Civil Liberties Union and several other anonymity advocacy groups expressed concerns that the changes to Rule 41 proposed by the Department of Justice would not only break international agreements, but also result in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Only a small section of the Congress is aware of the implications of the changes to Rule 41, according to Politico.

However, the parties arguing for and against the changes to Rule 41 agree that the Congress and general public should debate the same in the coming months.

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