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:
Well played.

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.


Filed Under: doj, fbi, hacking, rand paul, ron wyden, rule 41, supreme court, surveillance


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  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 May 2016 @ 10:57am

    More holes than fingers...

    Why does this feel like they are trying to put their finger in a hole in the dike when the dike actually resembles a colander?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2016 @ 11:11am

    Why is the DOJ treating computers any different from private safes and filing cabinets/ Is it because they can hack in without the victim knowing that their belonging have been searched?
    With a filing cabinet or safe, serving the warrant notifies the owner of the property.

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

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 19 May 2016 @ 11:19am

    Begging the question of legal installation of malware

    Throughout all these discussion the begged question seems to be whether it's lawful to install malware if done by law enforcement in the first place.

    There is a fundamental difference between malware that spies on me and a planted hidden microphone. Even the latter have been problematic (see e.g. FBI and California courthouse steps). The former, however, do much more than merely "listen". They STEAL CPU-cycles, STEAL electricity, STEAL cooling, STEAL memory, and render some percentage of your otherwise 100%-yours PC no longer yours. That theft of service should require a warrant.

    Second, the malware itself may open the system up to other attacks. No matter how insecure Windows is, there's a prevailing assumption that if the user doesn't download malicious software then it will be fairly secure. Here's a piece of malicious software forced on the user, that has not undergone security review to see if it's free of any "mal" intent other than that of its authors and users.

    I would like to see the media step up and start questioning where the hell the government got the idea they have the LAWFUL RIGHT to install malware, STEAL the above items, and OPEN the computer up to potential other attacks... all things that are FAR FAR FAR and beyond a simple "spy microphone."

    Ehud

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2016 @ 8:54pm

      Re: Begging the question of legal installation of malware

      Might makes right, also think of them as a rogue government that does whatever it wants because it knows no one will stand up to them.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 6:29am

      Re: Begging the question of legal installation of malware

      In addition, once found - would it be a crime to remove said spyware from "your" computer?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 2:16pm

        Re: Re: Begging the question of legal installation of malware

        I'm sure the DOJ could twist Sarbanes–Oxley to cover removal of spyware. It's pre-crime in the form of pre-spoliation.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2016 @ 11:41am

    hmm...

    more than just a few peeps in the government need a good SMHacting on this!

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 19 May 2016 @ 11:51am

    fREEDOM?

    Its interesting for a nation of freedom..
    to declare a hacking war on other nations..

    REALLY?
    What will happen? the other nations will LOCK DOWN access from the USA..
    So, Insted of Locking down the USA from the inside, we PISS off everyone else, so they LOCK DOWN from their side..

    LOVE reverse psychology..

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2016 @ 12:06pm

    Wide bitartisan support in congress IS possible

    The trick to getting Congress to pass a bill like this is to point out that the DoJ attempted to do an end-run around congress and apropriate power that rightfully belongs to congress for itself -- and deny congresspeople the ability to gain political points on either side of this issue, minimizing the lobbying funding they can take in.

    Phrased that way, they'll approve the bill in short order.

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 19 May 2016 @ 4:04pm

      Re: Wide bitartisan support in congress IS possible

      I'm not so sure. Congress has been spending years explicitly giving away various powers to others. I don't know if this one would bother them or not.

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

  • identicon
    Whoever, 19 May 2016 @ 1:20pm

    "Originalists" Where are they now?

    and particularly describing the place to be searched,


    Apparently the Supreme Court judges are incapable of reading the constitution now. Where are the "Originalists" of the court, who believe that the original text is what matters?

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 19 May 2016 @ 3:25pm

      Re: "Originalists" Where are they now?

      What are you talking about, 'anywhere they feel like for whatever reason they want' absolutely describes the place to be searched and what's to be searched for, and as such meets the requirements! /s

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2016 @ 8:55pm

      Re: "Originalists" Where are they now?

      Everyone knows only "terrorists" believe in constitutional rights instead of just letting your government decide what is best for it's citizens.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 10:09am

        Re: Re: "Originalists" Where are they now?

        Everyone knows only "terrorists" believe in constitutional rights instead of just letting your government decide what is best for it's citizens.

        Remember, the U.S. Constitution was written by terrorists. So, of course, it's going to have to go away in any "war on terror".

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

  • identicon
    Whatever, 19 May 2016 @ 8:21pm

    Wyden 2020! Everyone knows where Masnick's support is at. Spokesperson for all the Schwartzes, O'Dwyers, Snowdens and disgusting pro-encryption lawbreakers of the world. Which is why he fits in at Techdirt, where the pirate YouTube videos and Kool-Aid runs free.

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

    • icon
      Whatever (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 1:23am

      Re:

      Umm, Mike Masnick, is it perhaps time to fix it so people cannot enter an existing user name when they post anonymously? Crappy trolls are crappy.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 4:13am

        Re: Re:

        If it looks like a Whatever, smells like a Whatever, quacks like a Whatever...

        Honestly, you spout the same boring Wyden whining whether you're logged in or out. It's not fooling anyone.

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

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 7:03am

        Re: Re:

        I agree, this seems like a bug that should be fixed. But it's a relatively minor one, since (for example) the fake Whatever and the real Whatever are easily distinguished by the fact that the real Whatever is a registered user.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 7:45am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Considering they both say the exact same thing I'm not sure the "fake" is actually a fake.

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

          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 10:06am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I don't think the fake Whatever is a sock puppet, because what would be the point of commenting logged out but still using the same name?

            But even if you're correct, it still seems like a minor bug to me.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 2:39pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I think the fake is an actual fake: my comment analysis rates him at 97% Trill on the ISO Fuck scale, with a 5% margin of error. This is, for all practical purposes, trill as fuck.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2016 @ 8:52pm

    Even if it is passed nothing will change. The government agencies will continue to break the law as they appear to have complete contempt for following any laws.

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

  • icon
    Whatever (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 1:34am

    King Knute

    Wyden will soon introduce the Tide Revocation and Sand Help act (TRASH Act), which will force the moon to no longer control the tides touching US shores, instead encouraging an open source app to allow individual coast line property owners to decide when and where the tide should be for their property.

    The newly created Tide Observation and Surveillance Service (TOSS) will take care of applying TRASH for Governement waterfront, the TOSS TRASH project will fulfill Wyden's desire to control the otherwise uncontrollable.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 10:11am

      Re: King Knute

      Please let the orderly know that the nurse forgot your meds today.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 10:53am

      Re: King Knute

      So just to be clear, you seem to be implying that the bill they are pushing is trying to 'control the otherwise uncontrollable', by that are you saying that trying to make it illegal via a bill for a government agency to hack any computer they want to is not possible? That government agencies aren't beholden to follow government laws?

      That would probably be news to the politicians and a good number of the citizens, even if in practice that does seem to be exactly how things go these days, with government agencies paying attention only to the laws they feel like following and treating the rest as optional.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 3:01pm

        Re: Re: King Knute

        I think Whatever has changed lately. He's evolved from being a simple authoritarian into a form more suitable for a governmental dystopia rife with contradiction.

        He has become a Paradoxical Authoritarian, living in a world where the law is the law, except when the lawgivers rescind a law. In this case the enforcers must apply the law even when it's not the law, because the law fails only when it questions its own validity.

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

      • icon
        Whatever (profile), 22 May 2016 @ 4:25pm

        Re: Re: King Knute

        "you saying that trying to make it illegal via a bill for a government agency to hack any computer they want to is not possible? That government agencies aren't beholden to follow government laws?"

        I think that there is a conflict between the state goal of a spy agency and such a law. A big part of spying is obtaining information that someone might not otherwise want to give up, and that information may be obtained using methods that are, well, a little out of bounds. When you remember that much of what is obtained is not used to pursue a court case, you can understand where they can operate in spaces that are perhaps not as comfortable for all of us.

        Outlawing hacking would essentially be crippling the agencies and putting them at a significant disadvantage. It would be like coming 50 years ago and saying wiretaps and hidden microphones shouldn't be used. It would tie the hands of a spy agency and make it very difficult for them to do their jobs.

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

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 4:23am

    Anonimity, Cowardice, and Credibility

    I don't care if Whatever is Whomever and I don't think most people reading comments on TD do either.

    Credibility in online comments comes either because the comment is incredibly useful in content (either insightful, informative, funny, etc.) or (and also) because the commentator is well-known... like ThatOneGuy.

    However, no matter what, if what you post is trollish boorish uneducated "rabble rabble rabble" all you're doing is spewing. If you did it at the dinner table mom would send you to go get a mop and clean it before going to your room. In an online forum defending free expression -- even anonymously, it's not quite that simple.

    I read the troll stuff and laugh. Nobody who reads TD with an open mind hates Ron Wyden. Only people with agendas (paid or otherwise) do.

    Part of reading is critical thinking. If you can do that you can ignore the trolls. It just annoys them more.

    E

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 7:09am

      Re: Anonimity, Cowardice, and Credibility

      Continuity of identity is very useful, Context is important, and continuity of identity provides additional context.

      For example, I have a long enough continuous identity here that I no longer feel as much of a need to include various disclaimers and background to ensure that my comments are interpreted correctly.

      Also, there are commenters (not just here, but in every forum) who never add anything of value or substance. It's very nice to be able to spot them by identity and just skip over whatever they're saying. This may be of less value to you if you enjoy reading troll comments, but it's of great value to those of us who don't.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 11:24am

    dear td..

    Can we start our OWN ELECTION process and have it acknowledged as legal in this country?
    Or do we have to stand by and let THEM' do it??

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


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