The FBI are set to gain additional powers to hack and monitor an unlimited number of computers with just one warrant from any judge by December this year.
Unless Congress step in to stop changes from being made to “Rule 41”, the FBI will have unprecedented powers to snoop on innocent citizens legally.
The US court system has a process through which the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure are amended, and because these decisions are not made by elected officials, they are not supposed to deal with changes in the law or enacting policy.
Changes to Rule 41, however, will remove the limits on how the FBI can obtain search warrants for computer networks. As of now, a federal judge may authorize the feds to install malware to hack computers suspected to be involved in criminal activity. That judge may only issue the warrant when the device is in his or her jurisdiction, though. That barrier is scheduled to be lifted December 1, unless Congress prevents it.
It means it will be legal for the government to “hack anyone,” as Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) puts it in an op-ed article he helped write for Wired magazine Wednesday.
“The unintended consequences could be staggering,” the piece reads.
“With just six work weeks remaining on the Senate schedule and a long Congressional to-do list, time is running out,” it continues. The article calls for passage of Wyden’s Stop Mass Hacking Act to block the change.
Proponents of the automatic change say it will assist law enforcement in tracking cyber criminals, including terrorists and child pornographers. But the federal government’s secrecy surrounding its own cyber tools leaves skeptics doubting the official claims.
In an interview with RT, Derrick Broze of Activist Post warns the Rule 41 change represents “one more step in the march toward a total surveillance state.”
While that doesn’t ring of much optimism for the average citizen, Broze also points out that the government itself may face unintended consequences as well.