Menu
U.S. court rules that FBI can hack into a computer without a warrant

U.S. court rules that FBI can hack into a computer without a warrant

The case involves the FBI arresting a child pornography suspect

A U.S. court has ruled that the FBI can hack into a computer without a warrant -- a move which is troubling privacy advocates.

The criminal case involves a child pornography site, Playpen, that had been accessible through Tor, a browser designed for anonymous web surfing.

The FBI, however, managed to take over the site in 2014, and then tracked down and arrested its members by hacking their computers. This allowed law enforcement to secretly collect their IP addresses.

One of the arrested suspects has argued that the evidence against him had been unlawfully seized. But a  U.S. court in Virginia has ruled in favor of the FBI, according to court documents unsealed on Thursday.

The judge, Henry Morgan, ruled that even though the FBI obtained a warrant to hack into the suspect’s computer, none was needed.

The suspect may have used Tor to keep his browsing anonymous, but his IP address still isn’t private information, the judge wrote in his ruling. This is because the IP address is given out to third parties in order to access the Internet and even the Tor network.

Privacy advocacy group, Electronic Frontier Foundation, is opposed to this part of the ruling.

“The implications for the decision, if upheld, are staggering,” wrote Mark Rumold, an attorney with the group in a blog post. Law enforcement could seize information from a person’s computer without a warrant, probable cause or any suspicion at all, he said.

“To say the least, the decision is bad news for privacy,” he added.

Morgan, however, said in his ruling that the rise of hacking has changed expectations about privacy.

“For example, hacking is much more prevalent now than it was even nine years ago,” he said. “Now, it seems unreasonable to think that a computer connected to the Web is immune from invasion.”

As a result, Tor users “cannot reasonably expect” to be safe from hackers, he added. The FBI also didn’t violate the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by hacking into the suspect’s computer. Law enforcement should be able to use cutting-edge technology to stop crimes done in secrecy, Morgan said.

Rumold, however, expects that this part of judge’s ruling probably won’t hold up in appeal.


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Featured

Slideshows

Tech industry comes together as Lexel celebrates turning 30

Tech industry comes together as Lexel celebrates turning 30

Leading figures within the technology industry across New Zealand came together to celebrate 30 years of success for Lexel Systems, at a milestone birthday occasion at St Matthews in the City.​

Tech industry comes together as Lexel celebrates turning 30
HP re-imagines education through Auckland event launch

HP re-imagines education through Auckland event launch

HP New Zealand held an inaugural Evolve Education event at Aotea Centre in Auckland, welcoming over 70 principals, teachers and education experts to explore ways of shaping and enhancing learning using technology.

HP re-imagines education through Auckland event launch
Reseller News ICT Industry Awards 2017 - Meet the winners...

Reseller News ICT Industry Awards 2017 - Meet the winners...

Reseller News honoured the industry’s finest on a standout evening for the New Zealand channel, recognising the achievements of established and emerging partners on a memorable night in Auckland.

Reseller News ICT Industry Awards 2017 - Meet the winners...
Show Comments