Senators Wyden And Paul Introduce SMH Bill To Stop Massive Expansion Of Gov't Computer Hacking
from the smdh dept
We’ve written a few times now about Rule 41, a proposal that was put forth by the Justice Department last year, in what they claimed was a mere “administrative” change to the rules covering their ability to hack into computers. But the reality is that the change would allow the DOJ/FBI to basically hack into millions of computers overseas based on a single warrant and basically no oversight. The whole concept was a disaster, as many civil liberties and tech companies explained at the time. But none of that mattered, apparently. The Judicial Conference Advisory Committee approved the request back in March, and the Supreme Court gave its blessing a few weeks ago.
This is a very dangerous power being handed over to a government agency that has shown a history of being willing to abuse such powers. And it was done without any legislative change, but merely by running it up through the courts as a mere administrative change. At least some in Congress are not happy about this. Senators Ron Wyden and Rand Paul have now introduced a bill to stop this change, called the Stopping Mass Hacking Act, or SMH Act, which is explained here. Of course, there’s really not much to explain: the bill basically just says that the new rules will not be allowed to go into effect. The explanation is just more details on how awful Rule 41 will be for everyone.
Of course, “SMH” has another definition as well that may be more recognized by folks on the internet: Shaking My Head. And, it seems that Wyden is well aware of this, as he’s put up a Medium post about this new bill with the title Shaking My Head, and this gif:
In that post, Wyden notes:
For law enforcement to conduct a remote electronic search, they generally need to plant malware in???i.e. hack???a device. These rule changes will allow the government to search millions of computers with the warrant of a single judge. To me, that?s clearly a policy change that?s outside the scope of an ?administrative change,? and it is something that Congress should consider. An agency with the record of the Justice Department shouldn?t be able to wave its arms and grant itself entirely new powers.
These changes would dramatically expand the government?s hacking and surveillance authority. The American public should understand that these changes won?t just affect criminals: computer security experts and civil liberties advocates say the amendments would also dramatically expand the government?s ability to hack the electronic devices of law-abiding Americans if their devices were affected by a computer attack. Devices will be subject to search if their owners were victims of a botnet attack???so the government will be treating victims of hacking the same way they treat the perpetrators.
There’s a lot more in that article describing just how ridiculous this situation is. It’s a travesty that it was pushed through as an administrative change, and hopefully the rest of Congress agrees. Of course, getting Congress to actually rein in the power of law enforcement to spy on people, tragically, feels like a long shot. Either way, it’s worth letting your own Senators know how important this issue is to you.