Judicial Committee Gives FBI The First OK It Needs To Hack Any Computer, Anywhere On The Planet

from the the-world-is-yours dept

The FBI and DOJ are one step closer to having one of their “keeping up with the digital Joneses” requests granted. While the default phone encryption offered by Apple (and at some point in the future by Google) still remains free of law enforcement/intelligence “Golden Backdoors,” the agencies are one step closer to being legally permitted to hack nearly any computer in the world.

A judicial advisory panel Monday quietly approved a rule change that will broaden the FBI’s hacking authority despite fears raised by Google that the amended language represents a “monumental” constitutional concern.

The Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules voted 11-1 to modify an arcane federal rule to allow judges more flexibility in how they approve search warrants for electronic data, according to a Justice Department spokesman.

No longer bound by physical jurisdictions, the FBI will be able to perform remote searches all over the globe. This is its “21st century” fix — a permission slip to implant malicious software in any computer, located anywhere, in order to track suspected criminals. That performing these actions may strain international relationships or break local laws is just the acceptable collateral damage inherent to modern-day crimefighting.

There’s still plenty of time left before it goes into effect, and several chances that this rule change might be found to be just as potentially damaging — both to the Fourth Amendment and rights of citizens in other nations — as tech companies and privacy advocates are portraying it.

The judicial advisory committee’s vote is only the first of several stamps of approval required within the federal judicial branch before the the rule change can formally take place—a process that will likely take over a year. The proposal is now subject to review by the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, which normally can approve amendments at its June meeting. The Judicial Conference is next in line to approve the rule, a move that would likely occur in September.

The Supreme Court would have until May 1, 2016 to review and accept the amendment, which Congress would then have seven months to reject, modify or defer. Absent any congressional action, the rule would take place on Dec. 1, 2016.

While the fight against the rule change will continue, its procession through the next couple of steps will likely be as quiet as its passage by the judicial advisory panel. Those in the position to shut this down are going to find it hard to argue against law enforcement and national security talking points.

Any light shed on “arcane” federal rules and laws should throw a bit on other outdated pieces of legislation, like the CFAA or the Stored Communications Act, which are more in need of an update than Rule 41. Of course, the DOJ likes those the way they are, what with their broad language and deference to law enforcement. Rather than bring American citizens “up to date” with fixes to those bad laws, we’ll likely instead receive expanded government power with no corresponding bump for the governed. And as for the rest of the world — it will be playing by our rules, whether it wants to or not.

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Companies: apple, google

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Comments on “Judicial Committee Gives FBI The First OK It Needs To Hack Any Computer, Anywhere On The Planet”

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Ninja (profile) says:

I hope everybody remembers an article a while ago here (and on other places) that showed law enforcement requests for identities of users on online services skyrocketed in a very short time frame. So I’ll give this scenario: requests to implant malware/backdoors on machines start slow and then skyrocket as well (remember, if you go a few links up the chain of some suspected terrorist everyone in the world is connected to one) leaving tens of thousands of machines with the piece of software in them. At some point, some external player finds out how to access such backdoors. The rest is predictable.

Or do we expect them to narrowly focus real suspects?

And as for the rest of the world — it will be playing by our rules, whether it wants to or not.

And then some of you act surprised when people hate you and some lunatics try to bomb you. (Using ‘you’ in a general sense as I know many Americans despise what the Govt does). Go figure.

That One Guy (profile) says:


Pretty sure the title would be more accurate as

Judicial Committee Gives Foreign Governments And Agencies The First OK They Need To Hack Any Computer, Anywhere In The US

If a USG agency is hacking foreign computers, and slipping in spyware/malware, then it becomes all but impossible to cry foul when foreign governments in turn hack US computers, unless the one defending the USG’s actions feels like opening themselves up to looking like colossal hypocrites, which few politicians care to do.

ryuugami says:

Re: Typo

If a USG agency is hacking foreign computers, and slipping in spyware/malware, then it becomes all but impossible to cry foul when foreign governments in turn hack US computers, unless the one defending the USG’s actions feels like opening themselves up to looking like colossal hypocrites, which few politicians care to do

You sure about that? I don’t think that’s ever stopped them before. They just keep pretending that the US is the beacon of freedom and all that crap, ignoring all of the evidence of the contrary.

Looking from outside, I find the US more despicable than those big evil boogies China and Russia, mostly because of the legendary levels of hypocrisy.

I used to think of America as awesome, but now I feel mostly contempt.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

That’s the absurdity of this and many other actions by government agents. They just “make it legal” despite it being illegal according to a reasonable interpretation of the Constitution and despite it being unethical and potentially damaging to US interests in the future (though really, by this point, how much worse can our reputation get?).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: As always, turnabout is fair play.

It’s deeper than that. By hacking into computers residing physically and logically within country X (replace X with any non-USA country), they show disregard for country X’s laws.

Well, if the USA police disregards country X’s computer-related laws, won’t country X citizens (not only policemen) feel justified in disregarding the USA’s computer-related laws?

Anonymous Coward says:

"suspected criminals"

As per usual, just being a suspect is enough to stop every right you have in its tracks.

What is the next step? Once you are in jail no one actually gives a flying fuck if you rot there for months or years, even without being charged. It is getting to the point where if you actual want your rights… then you better use the 2nd to ensure them just like the Bundy Ranch Standoff situation. If they did not have guns, the feds would have just rolled right over them.

If you were to ask our founding fathers what their thoughts are? They might say…

Give me Liberty or Give me Death!
The tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots and tyrants from time to time!
Your rights will be lost under the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.
Those whom give up essential Liberty for temporary safety, deserve neither liberty or safety and will not receive it either.
I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences of attending to too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

[quote]While the default phone encryption offered by Apple (and at some point in the future by Google) still remains free of law enforcement/intelligence “Golden Backdoors,” [/quote]

Isn’t it time to stop repeating this misleading nonsense?
You don’t need a backdoor when the front is wide open.
It doesn’t matter if you’re crypto cannot be broken when the phone will give the keys to anyone that knows how to ask.


I worry in the future I won’t even be able to buy a device that I can maintain authority over; Not just because most people are too ignorant to understand/care, but because even the better media sources like techdirt don’t bother explaining to people how they don’t have authority over these devices, and why that matters. Baseband architecture represents an inversion of device authority- why is this not headline news?!

Uriel still hasn't fixed his tablet browser says:

This is cause to regard all agencies as hostile

When developing a security scheme for a website, a host system or a service, this degree of intrusion powers is grounds for everyone to regard any entity, whether civil or government, whether local or foreign, whether law-enforcement or otherwise, as hostile until whitelisted.

But the FBI has proven they cannot be trusted with powers they already have, let alone license to hack anyone.

If your secrets are important (such as if you are a commercial enterprise), maybe it’s important even to secure your system from five-dollar wrenches.

Anonymous Coward says:

I fail to see how you drones haven’t figure it out. This is our world. You’re just lucky that we let you live here.

You lost this world more that 50 years ago. You won’t catch up and you will dance when we say dance. Accept it. Wake up tomarrow morning in that third world hell-hole that you live in and go back to work. Drone on.

We’ll be watching and when your usefulness to us subsides just look to the sky and the end will come soon.

Padpaw (profile) says:

this is the sort of thing that leads to war. You have a government decide it can do whatever it wants and no other country has a right to tell what they can and cannot do in other countries.

“Do what I say not what I do” does not end well when it involves egos of heavily militarized dictators.

Any bets which country will attack America first? At this rate that’s a when not an if. I don’t mean terrorist attack I mean military attack

Padpaw (profile) says:

Re: Re:

An addendum, I had hoped for a peaceful revolution to overthrow the openly criminal government in the states but that seems unlikely what with apathy and this waiting to see what everyone else is doing first attitude so many seem to have.

keep waiting Americans for someone else to deal with this mess or, well we all know where this ends up. History repeats itself and we fail to learn from it

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s that Messianic thing that’s causing the apathy: people are waiting for a Glorious Leader to pop up out of nowhere and announce The Thing, then prove his strength by fending off attempts to prevent him from doing The Thing.

What we’re not doing is taking the much-vaunted personal responsibility to make something happen ourselves. And believe it or not, a violent revolution ain’t the answer. They are better armed than us and already know who we are and where we live.

The smart thing to do is to persuade as many people as possible to vote third party. If we get enough people to do so, we will get the government we want.

Reality bites (profile) says:

Kiss goodbye to any tech industry in the USA.

The feral government is making sure they destroy everything in their quest for tyranny.

The only customers for USA tech will be the feral gov and the few left able to afford the hacked hardware.

It would appear to be almost an deliberate attempt to weaken the USA…. Perhaps its time to start the trials for the traitors trying to destroy what little is left of the USA.

Incriminally Sane says:


Many do not realize what the program really is! In the short version, their plan is to make the entire planet so contaminated, so miserable that the people of earth will eventually BEG the global leaders for the implementation of a Global Government to “Protect” them from the damage being done by the inept government organizations and Corporations. So, It is ALL meant to make people so fearful that the planet is being destroyed that you will think a New World Order will save you from disaster. IT WON’T!

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