Report reveals FBI can remotely scan your computer without your knowledge
Is somebody watching you through your webcam?
A former FBI official has confirmed that the FBI has at its disposal, and readily uses, malware to spy on you, including activating your webcam to watch you without your knowledge. So far, the surveillance needs a court-provided warrant to be conducted, but the fact the technology exists has privacy advocates alarmed.
The revelation marks a trend where authorities are turning increasingly to computers and cloud technology to conduct sweeping surveillance actions that might be inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment.
The most common form of attack uses malware installed via a false link in an email sent to the suspect. When the suspect clicks the link it connects his machine to FBI offices in Quantico, VA, and a bit of malicious code installs itself on his computer.
Using that program, FBI agents can then search through the computer, gleaning evidence and identifying information that can allow them to identify, pinpoint, and incriminate a suspect.
The problem is that the FBI is now hacking the computers. As they hack into these systems, they may find other information unrelated to their initial investigation. Laura K. Donohue, a law professor at Georgetown University, compared the tactic to "a fishing expedition" to the Washington Post.
The Fourth Amendment does not permit authorities to go on such expeditions, requiring detailed and specific accusations or probably cause before a search occurs. Yet, there are no laws which cover these kinds of searches, which are revolutionary in their nature and a reality of the digital world.
A considerable volume of crime now occurs online, with a suspected criminal never leaving the comfort of their home or wherever their internet connection may be. How can officials intercept criminals engaged in malicious activity via an inherently anonymous medium?
So far, the FBI appears to be following the law and asking judges for warrants and guidance in each case. The former FBI official also explained to the Washington Post that the power is used sparingly to prevent controversy.
Yet, the U.S. government has these powers and the NSA in particular uses them routinely to monitor foreign threats.
For now, the technology is being used to capture bad guys, but eventually, as all things are, the point when these new techniques become abused is coming.
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