The FBI now has the powers to hack computers anywhere around the world, the Intercept reports. The US Supreme Court approved changes to regulations that make it easier for the Bureau to hack into computers that will take effect in December, unless Congress enacts opposing legislation.
Until now, warrants issued by US judges couldn’t authorise hacking into a computer “if the investigator didn’t know where the computer was—because it might be outside his or her jurisdiction.”
Under the new rules, however, warrants can be issued that cover search or seizure of any electronic device, regardless of its location, “if the target of the investigation is using anonymity software like Tor to cloak their location.”
Additionally, the ruling expands the FBI’s powers to hack into computers that have previously been hacked, like those infected in a botnet – a network of hacked computers used like “zombies” in cyber attacks.
The rule change was pushed for by the US Justice Department, who advocated for it claiming that it was a procedural change needed to deal with the challenges of the digital age.
Privacy advocates have opposed the change, with Kevin Bankston, director of the Open Technology Institute, saying: “Whatever euphemism the FBI uses to describe it—whether they call it a ‘remote access search’ or a ‘network investigative technique’—what we’re talking about is government hacking, and this obscure rule change would authorize a whole lot more of it.”
The Justice Department responded to criticism saying that it would not authorise searches more extensive than those already allowed.