UK Police Now Allowed To Hack Home PCs Without Court Approved Warrant

from the that-doesn't-seem-right... dept

In the US, the FBI has been known to use various hacking techniques, such as installing spyware or a keylogger on suspects' computers -- though it's unclear if they obtain warrants before doing so. Over in the UK, police are now allowed to hack into computers of suspects without any court-approved warrant. Not surprisingly (and, reasonably) this has civil libertarians up in arms. It's difficult to understand how any country that believes in civil liberties could do such a thing without some form of checks and balances in the form of a warrant. Otherwise, you're just asking for such a program to be widely abused.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    bikey (profile), Jan 5th, 2009 @ 5:56am

    gov hacking

    Difficult to understand unless your sputtering economy depends on responding to content lobbies' demand to criminalize and root out any and all downloading...

     

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  2.  
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    Geeb, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 6:17am

    Not true, fortunately

    Never believe anything you read in the Times! It's debunked here by that great bastion of truthiness and reliability, The Register.

     

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  3.  
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    Lonnie E. Holder, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 6:23am

    Where were the Libertarians when...

    the computer was hacked that led to the illegal theft of unreleased computer files of Guns 'n Roses songs? Hacking is hacking, regardless of who does it.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Traaxx, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 6:25am

    New World Order

    The Revolution of the elite and rich has almost been completed. This is a necessary step to prevent any middle class counter revolution. We don't have long, the current world wide economic collapse is another reason to bring about the further globalization and elimination of national countries

     

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  5.  
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    Mr Firewall, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 6:34am

    Ubber Firewall

    That's why you buy the BEST firewall now, before things change and the government requires firewall makers to create a backdoor for the police... which of course, will be exploited by real hackers and terrorists.

     

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  6.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 5th, 2009 @ 6:38am

    Re: Where were the Libertarians when...

    Was that the result of a hack? I didn't think so, unless you really expand the definition of "hacking"... Lazy writers and politicians use the word for things it does not define.

    Anyway, that's neither here nor there. There's a huge difference between a multinational corporation having some music files it was intending to make public get leaked early, and innocent civilians having their personal records investigated by a government without cause nor warrant.

    If you can't see that, you're pretty blind.

     

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  7.  
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    Dangerously, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 6:39am

    If they can install spyware and keyloggers, what's stopping them from dropping some child porn, etc. on someone's machine? Seems like that'd be an easy path to a conviction. With power comes the potential for abuse, especially in the governments hands.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 6:46am

    Re: Where were the Libertarians when...

    That hack was not legalized, though.

     

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  9.  
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    Geeb is a liar, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 7:10am

    Re: Not true, fortunately

    So what you are saying is that Mike only checked one source for this blog? He never does that. He is always very careful about including more than one source. In fact, he usually cites his own blog. You and your link are lies. Please leave.

     

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  10.  
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    Overcast, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 7:13am

    If they can install spyware and keyloggers, what's stopping them from dropping some child porn, etc. on someone's machine?

    Yep, be a good way to get an ex-spouse, political enemy, business competition, or annoying neighbor in loads of trouble.

    And on the flip side, what's to stop me from coding some Trojans for the police Network, putting them on some other poor bloke's PC and then loading up his PC with Child Porn and ratting on him - with the explicit hope that it does in fact get plugged into the Police's Network, lol

    Things like this can be exploited on both sides - they need to keep that in mind. If I'm aware of the presence of their software on my machine, and let's just say I write my 'own version' - they may not even know I'm coming back through the same gateway to them.

    Lot's of variables out there...

     

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  11.  
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    Overcast, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 7:28am

    Never believe anything you read in the Times! It's debunked here by that great bastion of truthiness and reliability, The Register.

    "The Home Office has denied it has made any change to rules governing how police can remotely snoop on people's computers."

    Oh yeah, a Government agency denying it... lol, that's not really proof it's untrue. It's the wording; "The Home Office has denied it has made any change to rules governing how police can remotely snoop on people's computers" - who said "it" - as in the "Home Office". So perhaps "it" did not make any changes yet - it was past tense they were talking; "has made any change". (Note they don't deny the ability, just the change to the rules, so far).

    Which seems to be the case:

    "Under the Brussels edict, police across the EU have been given the green light to expand the implementation of a rarely used power involving warrantless intrusive surveillance of private property"


    The Home Office did not change it's rules - the Brussels edict did. And I suspect the "rarely used power" - won't be seeing such 'rare' use in the near future.

    They go further to say: "The UK has agreed to a strategic approach towards tackling cyber crime on the same basis as all Member States - however, the decisions in the Council Conclusions are not legally binding and there are no agreed timescales."

    Basically not denying a thing, just saying the 'decisions' aren't legally binding and don't have a timeline.

    So really, they key is that the Home Office hasn't made any changes - YET.

     

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  12.  
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    Lonnie E. Holder, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 7:29am

    Re: Re: Where were the Libertarians when...

    PaulT:

    Oh, so it is okay if someone hacks into a computer with the intent of stealing files that supposedly were going to eventually be leaked anyway, though the files in question were rough versions of the songs that eventually got released and were never intended to be released as is, as opposed to the evil government hacking into someone's computer. I think your comment is a slippery slope argument, and if you are unable to see that, you have no eyes.

     

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  13.  
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    Dav, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 7:37am

    removal of liberty in the name of protection

    This is no surprise with the surveillance state the UK has become over the years.

    this is yet another remove of our freedom, especially online, in the name of protection.

     

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  14.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 5th, 2009 @ 8:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Where were the Libertarians when...

    You miss my points. I'm not advocatinged either action, but they are utterly different cases unless you have some kind of a link that states that the GnR case was the result of a remote hack (I can't see one, and I don't remember it that way).

    Either way, as noted above, the MOST important thing is the legal status. The GnR thing was illegal and is being dealt with by the authorities under the existing law. Under this current issue we're discussing, it would be permitted by the government and the victim would presumably have no recourse, regardless of how the data is used.

    That's the issue. *IF* the GnR issue was the result of an actual hack, it's far less odious than the proposed measures here even if some actual harm had been done to the band (which I don't believe there was, as per reasons already discussed here ad infinitum). One is a private individual committing a crime, which will be dealt with under the rule of law. The other is an over-reaching power that would allow a government to spy on and silence critics without due process or accountability.

     

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  15.  
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    bikey, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 8:10am

    Oh?

    I don't know what the Times said, but this was also the top story in the Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/new-powers-for-police-to-hack-your-pc-1225802.html), and yes, it didn't say it had happened but that it was planned. The important thing is to follow it, because these things tend to become law before anyone even sees them coming.

     

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  16.  
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    Tony (profile), Jan 5th, 2009 @ 8:32am

    A fine line between protecting your rights and catching criminals

    On the one hand I don't particularly like people being able to snoop on what I do in private, whether that is my activities at home or what I have on my computer (not that I have anything to hide), but on the other hand I am all in favour of the police having the right tools to help catch criminals and terrorists.

    In the UK there is so much more surveillence equipment everywhere than there is in the USA, however this has proved invaluable in tracking down terrorist activity, robberies, rapes and murders, lootings, riotings etc.

    Which would you prefer? Your privacy, or better measures to help keep you safe?

     

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  17.  
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    Lonnie E. Holder, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 8:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Where were the Libertarians when...

    PaulT:

    I think we are working at cross purposes.

    My initial comment was made in light of Mike's post, because he seemed indignant at the potential of someone hacking into a computer with legal backing. Yes, it was potentially governmental hacking. On the other hand, when an individual hacked into a computer to steal unreleased songs, he was similarly indignant, but in favor of the individual. If hacking is wrong in one case, it should be wrong in the other case, regardless of whether the hack was remote or not. I do seem to recall that the person that took the Guns 'n Roses songs had to overcome some sort of security to obtain the songs, but I am unsure.

    I consider hacking to be odious, regardless of who is doing it. To somehow say that governmental hacking is worse than individual hacking (facts not in evidence) is bizarre to me, regardless of whether there is provable harm. Hacking seems to me to be like someone breaking into my house. If they do no harm, even locking the doors after they leave, is it still right? If they have governmental permission to pick the locks, is it still right? No. Is either worse than the other? Well, I prefer my government stay out of my underwear drawer, but while they may get a good laugh, they are unlikely to post the results on the web. The individual hacker is likely to post it where he/she can get the most notoriety.

     

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  18.  
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    Lonnie E. Holder, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 8:48am

    Re: A fine line between protecting your rights and catching criminals

    Tony:

    Your argument is one that is frequently used to permit more government access to your private life. The balance seems more and more in favor of the government all the time, in spite of the Privay Act (U.S.).

    Yes, I want the government to have tools to catch crooks, but they also need probable cause and need to observe the constitutional rights of citizens, including the crooks. Otherwise, the government is no better than the hacker who stole the Guns 'n Roses data. The government should set the standards of conduct, not do something because criminals already do it.

     

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  19.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Jan 5th, 2009 @ 9:19am

    Re:

    I actually know of a case where a vindictive ex did this to get a better settlement in a divorce. The only problem was that her friend did such a good job that the poor guy (whom I had been contracted to help prove the files were not his) was later convicted of child porn and sent to prison for 5 years. So she can't get any income from someone that can't earn any.

    She installed the back door before her access to the computer was denied. Then her friend put the files on his computer after editing the meta data in the picture to make it look like he was logged on and had been to the site with the pictures and had downloaded them.

    Just think about it!?! This was just average people. What could the Gov experts do?

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 9:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Where were the Libertarians when...

    Mike wasn't indignant, he was confused at why GnR would be so up in arms about it, and about why our law enforcement resources are being used for these purposes.

    Is either worse than the other?

    We're talking about a law that is ripe for abuse. Illegal activities by private citizens really have nothing to do with it.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 9:41am

    Re: Ubber Firewall

    That is impossible when "firewall makers" includes Linux. You'll always be able to pick up a cheap (even used) PC and use it as a secure firewall.

     

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  22.  
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    bikey (profile), Jan 5th, 2009 @ 9:53am

    Re: A fine line between protecting your rights and catching criminals

    When all this surveillance started, it was about 'terrorism', then crime was added, then property interests. Then more actions were determined to be criminal. Frankly, I prefer my privacy to omnipotence of states that have given no indication of giving a tinkers damn about me.

     

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  23.  
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    Lonnie E. Holder, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 10:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Where were the Libertarians when...

    I would have been up in arms about it had they been my files. I think Mike's confusion (which seemed like indignation to me) was lack of understanding of their viewpoint.

    Hacking is abuse in every sense of the word, by private citizens or by the government. I see no difference between the two, except one is a criminal offense and the other should be. Citizens need to be protected from unreasonable search and seizure.

    The government should be held to a higher standard (which is kind of what you said), not a lower standard.

     

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  24.  
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    snowburn14, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 10:52am

    Re: Re:

    "Just think about it!?! This was just average people. What could the Gov experts do?"

    Probably nothing nearly so effective...

    But on a more serious note, those who point out that they would be willing to sacrifice some of their right to privacy to be "safer" are missing the point (Ben Franklin quote aside). The police, etc., were always empowered to spy on you to their hearts' content, provided they obtained a warrant. What's at issue here is their ability to circumvent that requirement, thanks to some of the legislation passed since 9/11. To me, that seems like a very dangerous step to remove from the process for the sake of expediency.

     

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  25.  
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    BTR1701, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 5:44pm

    Re: A fine line between protecting your rights and catching criminals

    > Which would you prefer? Your privacy, or better measures to
    > help keep you safe?

    My privacy.

    I can take of my own safety, thank you very much.

     

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  26.  
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    toby, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 6:45pm

    Fascism

    Western Economies are drunk with power.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 7:41pm

    Re: Fascism

    What are the Eastern economies drinking - koolaid ?

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    chukes, Jan 6th, 2009 @ 1:06am

    We need to open our eyes

    1. “The Revolution of the elite and rich has almost been completed. This is a necessary step to prevent any middle class counter revolution. We don't have long, the current world wide economic collapse is another reason to bring about the further globalization and elimination of national countries”
    We need to open our eyes to the corruption and destruction of our civil liberties. One film that reiterates these points is zeitgeist and zeitgeist addendum. Visit www.zeitgeistmovie.com
    “none are more hopelessly enslaved than those who believe they are free”

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    ED, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 11:33pm

    Re: Not true, fortunately

    The UK isn't heading towards a becoming police state - it already is one.

    Top 10 list of police state measures in the United Kingdom:

    10: RFID TAGS IN RUBBISH BINS
    Local councils in the UK now put RFID tags in rubbish bins to monitor the amount of waste created by each household with a view to enforcing a "recycling tax."

    9: RFID'S IN PASSPORTS AND OYSTER CARDS
    The UK government has now put a RFID chip into passports and the Oyster card records details on every journey made.

    8: PAY PER MILE
    Drivers will have an RFID chip installed in their car and be forced to pay for every mile they drive.

    7: HAVE TO APPLY TO PROTEST
    Do you want to make your voice heard? Well, if you want to protest in the centre of London you now have to apply for permission from the police.

    6: X-RAY CAMERAS ON STREET
    The government now plans to install X-Ray cameras in a bid to combat "terrorism".

    5: CHILDREN FINGERPRINTED IN SCHOOL
    Children can now have their biometric data taken from them at school without their parents consent.

    4: SHOUTING CAMERAS
    There are now cameras that shout orders at people who "misbehave" in the street.

    3: CCTV CAMERAS IN SCHOOL TOILETS
    Schools justify the complete loss of privacy for children by saying it cuts down on vandalism and bullying.

    2: NATIONAL DNA DATABASE
    Police now want powers to take DNA samples from people on the street for petty offences such as speeding or dropping litter.

    1: TERRORISM ACT
    Under section 44 of the Terrorism Act police officers can search you without the need to show that an offence is being committed. Not only that, but even if you are innocent you can be held for 28 days without charge.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2010 @ 7:55am

    what next they going be allow to come in your house or apartment without you and put drug there then bust you for it when it not your?

     

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