United States Supreme Court allows FBI to hack millions of devices with just one warrant
So now the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) can hack your and my laptop/smartphone or PC with a valid warrant. This is what the new judgement by US Supreme Court says. The US Supreme Court has approved a change in Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, so judges across the country now have the authority to issue warrants for remote electronic searches outside their district.
Essential, this order will let a US judge can grant an FBI agent in, say, New York, permission to hack into a computer in San Francisco, or potentially any city in the world, in order to help in their investigations. The court documents also state that the US based judge can also grant a warrant if a suspect uses tools to hide their identity, such as Tor.
The judgement is in line with an amendment, first introduced in 2014 and it allows US authorities to keep pace with the dynamics of Internet but at the same time it also raises privacy and security issues. Google has already spoken out against the said amendment in a blog.
It comes just a week after a Massachusetts judge dismissed evidence obtained by the FBI using a network investigative technique in a case involving a Dark Web site that distributed images of child sexual abuse. It was Rule 41 that rendered the FBI’s findings invalid in court.
The US Department of Justice’s spokesperson Peter Carr told Motherboard:
Criminals now have ready access to sophisticated anonymizing technologies to conceal their identity while they engage in crime over the Internet, and the use of remote searches is often the only mechanism available to law enforcement to identify and apprehend them.
This amendment ensures that courts can be asked to review warrant applications in situations where is it currently unclear what judge has that authority. The amendment makes explicit that it does not change the traditional rules governing probable cause and notice.
Privacy advocates and civil liberty groups have voiced their concerns over empowering FBI to such a degree without proper oversight. It remains to be seen how FBI makes use of this judgement in cases where suspects are in foreign countries like say United Kingdom and how the law becomes applicable there.