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U.S. Senators Introduce Act to Stop Mass Hacking by Government Spy Bots

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In late April we posted a report titled "The DOJ is about to Rewrite the Search and Seizure Rules that Would Expand their Reach Worldwide." The report noted that there was a justice department bid to rewrite an arcane rule that had critics warning of a dramatic expansion of the FBI's power to hack suspect computers — no matter where in the world they are located. The report further noted that "The proposal, which also makes it easier for the government to target automated networks of computers known as "botnets", is among two dozen changes expected to be adopted by the Supreme Court by May 1. Barring congressional intervention, the new rules take effect on December 1. At the time, Ron Wyden, the Democratic Senator from Oregon stated that this was "a major policy change. It vastly expands the government's hacking authority and gives the government authority to plant malware on 1 million computers with one warrant from one judge." Today we learn that legislation called the "Stopping Mass Hacking Act" introduced by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and Republican Senator Rand Paul is designed to undo the change adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court in a private vote last month.


Reuters reports today that "A small group of bipartisan senators introduced a bill Thursday that would block a pending judicial rule change allowing U.S. judges to issue search warrants for remote access to computers in any jurisdiction, even overseas, arguing the change would expand the FBI's hacking authority.


Senator Wyden said in a statement that 'This is a dramatic expansion of the government's hacking and surveillance authority. Such a substantive change with an enormous impact on Americans' constitutional rights should be debated by Congress, not maneuvered through an obscure bureaucratic process.'


Tensions over the FBI's secretive hacking tools, also known as "network investigative techniques," have played out in a number of recent cases involving the bureau's covert seizure of a dark web child pornography website in February 2015 to track thousands of the site's visitors.


Two defendants in the investigation secured rulings last month declaring the warrants used in their cases were invalid under current limitations of Rule 41."


Reuters added that "Congress has until Dec. 1 to vote to reject, amend or postpone the changes to Rule 41 of the federal rules of criminal procedure. If lawmakers fail to act, the change will automatically take effect, a scenario seen as likely given the short timeline."


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Extra Reading on Rule 41: Electronic Frontier Foundation  


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