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UK Police To Step Up Hacking of Home PCs 595

Posted by kdawson
from the must-be-ok-if-the-good-guys-do-it dept.
toomanyairmiles writes "The Times of London reports that the United Kingdom's Home Office has quietly adopted a new plan to allow police across Britain to routinely hack into people's personal computers without a warrant. The move, which follows a decision by the European Union's council of ministers in Brussels, has angered civil liberties groups and opposition MPs. They described it as a sinister extension of the surveillance state that drives 'a coach and horses' through privacy laws."
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UK Police To Step Up Hacking of Home PCs

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  • Is this....legal? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Smidge207 (1278042) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @09:17PM (#26324739) Journal

    Meh. Just another excuse to snoop on people without justification. If a warrant is issued then at least there is a paper trail leading back to who applied for the warrant any why. If this law goes through then it will be a free-for-all and history has demonstrated very well what happens then.

    Also, as far as I'm aware, UK security services have been doing this for some time, this simply makes it legal. Given the majority of the population are not very tech savvy their solution wouldn't need to be that complex, although I imagine its more complex than just a key logger. The only evidence I have for this is talking to people who work in these organizations. The advice to me was get using TOR (although I can never configure it right) so maybe its not too complex, or maybe they were double bluffing me. Who knows? I'm guessing the arrest levels aren't so high because they would have to arrest almost everyone under 30 who's been on a computer. Once they've got the logistics sorted I'm sure they'll happily cart us to the gulag though.

    =Smidge=

    • by The Master Control P (655590) <[ejkeever] [at] [nerdshack.com]> on Sunday January 04, 2009 @09:43PM (#26324967)
      Just get her to sign the treaty.
    • Re:Is this....legal? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pete6677 (681676) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @09:46PM (#26324985)

      The U.K. government might as well just announce that their subjects no longer have any rights at all. They have effectively all been removed in practice. To put things in perspective, this country is on the verge of banning kitchen knives to try to reduce violent crime (now that private possession of firearms has been completely outlawed). The saddest part of all is that the subjects of the U.K. support this nonsense by a large margin.

      • Re:Is this....legal? (Score:5, Informative)

        by MrPloppy (1117689) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @10:42PM (#26325413)
        Actually the UK is NOT at the verge of banning kitchen knives. A group of Doctors suggested the ban of POINTED kitchen knives. By the way very few people in the UK actually wants fire arms to become legal. http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/46266/Ban-kitchen-knives-to-save-lives-says-doctor [express.co.uk]
        • by operagost (62405) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @11:06PM (#26325581) Homepage Journal
          Oh, POINTED kitchen knives. Well, that's much better, isn't it? And physicians are definitely the sort of experts we want making the decisions on kitchen cutlery.
      • V for Vendetta (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Weaselmancer (533834) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @10:56PM (#26325517)

        "But again, truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty you need only look into a mirror." [youtube.com]

        I used to think V for Vendetta was fiction. It's starting to look like a documentary.

      • Re:Is this....legal? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 04, 2009 @11:01PM (#26325551)

        Firstly, you sound like one of those fucking gun-fetishist yanks. "Poor people without guns, that must be why they've no rights". No. The rights come through political machinations and the broad agreement of large groups of people. Change doesn't come because some isolationist nutjobs do or don't have guns.

        As an example, the UK government has to respect the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. Both these documents have regularly trumped the government in court, and didn't need a single gun pointed at the government's head to get them to comply.

        Secondly, private possession of firearms has not been "completely outlawed". There are plenty of people with rifles and shotguns next to their beds; Tony Martin comes to mind. You can even have your precious handgun if you can convince the police you have a "good reason" and they sign off on your license. Good luck.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by julesh (229690)

          You can even have your precious handgun if you can convince the police you have a "good reason" and they sign off on your license.

          Err.. no, that's what the situation was in 1997. Now, you have to convince the Defence Council, which is much harder.

      • by Lord Kano (13027) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @11:46PM (#26325825) Homepage Journal

        They have effectively all been removed in practice. To put things in perspective, this country is on the verge of banning kitchen knives to try to reduce violent crime (now that private possession of firearms has been completely outlawed).

        15 years ago, after their big round of gun bans, we asked if there were to be a rash of stabbings would they try to ban knives. The response was "Don't be ridiculous.", now that there has been a rash of stabbings they are actually going to try to ban knives. When youthful criminals begin to bash each other on the head with Cricket bats, they will register and ban Cricket bats. Then rocks, then sticks, then anything not made of nerf.

        It's not a slippery slope anymore, it's a waterslide.

        LK

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jurily (900488)

        The saddest part of all is that the subjects of the U.K. support this nonsense by a large margin.

        Not quite. They're just preoccupied with the latest news on celebrities.

        I've been living here for half a year now and I haven't seen a single word about this stuff in newspapers yet.

        When will it be a crime to use secure operating systems?

      • by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp@NOSpam.Gmail.com> on Monday January 05, 2009 @01:25AM (#26326463) Homepage Journal

        The U.K. government might as well just announce that their subjects no longer have any rights at all. They have effectively all been removed in practice.

        This is where a unified, written Constitution comes in handy. Yeah, those can be abused as well... the Right wing points to courts basically ignoring the 10th Amendment for decades, and the Left Wing points to a number of Bush wartime programs. But the fact is, it's still much easier to plead your case in courts when you have your Constitution on paper, in clear written form, instead of a collection of traditions and court cases.

        Want to complain that the US government is doing illegal searches and seizures? At least you have a 4th Amendment to point to and say "you're violating this law". In a country with an un-written Constitution, even if there's a court precedent on the issue, without a written Constitution, the government can simply decree a thing, and it's so, until they're booted out of office.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by julesh (229690)

          Want to complain that the US government is doing illegal searches and seizures? At least you have a 4th Amendment to point to and say "you're violating this law". In a country with an un-written Constitution, even if there's a court precedent on the issue, without a written Constitution, the government can simply decree a thing, and it's so, until they're booted out of office.

          Whereas in the UK, you'd point them at ECHR article 8.

          Unless the UK decides to rescind its signature of the ECHR.l

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Aceticon (140883)

        <rant type="major">

        I've lived in 3 countries by now and the UK is the one country where I feel the most that I'm surrounded by the sheeple.

        Once again the local wolves are increasing their powers to fleece the sheeple - I'm not surprised.

        The pound is weak, it's highly likely that Britain is going to be the European country worst affected by the recession (in the last couple of years all the sheeple where busy getting themselves further and further into debt to buy all the useless consumer goods they sa

    • by Max Threshold (540114) on Monday January 05, 2009 @03:58AM (#26327219)
      Funny how the UK is slowly turning into Nazi Germany, while the US turns into the Soviet Union.
  • How?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 4D6963 (933028) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @09:18PM (#26324763)
    Hack into people's PC? How do they do that, and what do they get out of it?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Not entirely sure how, they probably wouldn't say anyway. The most likely explanation is that they want to monitor usage to control piracy, and monitor emails and documents for signs of terrorism. You can learn a lot about someone if you have access to what they google.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by 4D6963 (933028)
        I'm more interested in how as a premise though. Mainly that these days people are behind a router that acts as a firewall.. that limits things a bit I guess...
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by cjb658 (1235986)

          Man in the middle?

          Just wait for the user to download some new program or updates and inject a trojan. When he runs the program, BAM!

    • Re:How?? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Spatial (1235392) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @09:22PM (#26324791)
      Click here to win a free iPod!
      • Re:How?? (Score:5, Funny)

        by sleeponthemic (1253494) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @09:37PM (#26324899) Homepage

        Click here to win a free iPod!

        Bummer, I didn't win. I guess the winner actually gets a link.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Lumenary7204 (706407)
        One would think that since we've been living in an Internet-connected society for a little over a decade (from a "Joe Average" standpoint) that people would no longer be that gullible. Alas, that isn't the case...

        John Doe sees a tempting link in his email, or one served up in a web page a'la Phorm [wikipedia.org], and clicks on it. This then triggers the installation of "legalized" spyware which tracks the user's communications and browsing habits.

        Amazing, the kind of tools and techniques that law enforcement and sig
        • Re:How?? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by timeOday (582209) on Monday January 05, 2009 @12:24AM (#26326081)

          This then triggers the installation of "legalized" spyware which tracks the user's communications and browsing habits.

          I think all the above posts in this vein are wrong. The question isn't whether there are technical means for computers to be compromised en masse - botnets proved that already. The entire question is: which means will the government be willing to use. If the govt perpetrated mass infections of computers, it would certainly be detected, very likely to cause outrage, and easily remedied by anybody who really cared. So I predict they will remain more targeted in their attacks. The whole key to unregulated powers is to use them against a small minority so the majority don't get upset and start getting regulations passed. (Of course, that minority might not be criminals - they might be political opponents etc).

      • Re:How?? (Score:5, Funny)

        by notseamus (1295248) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @10:14PM (#26325201)

        More like: Click here to win a free Zune

        It's the government, and they're terribly out of touch you know...

        In other news, the Tories are now the party of the left in the UK.

    • Re:How?? (Score:5, Informative)

      by arkhan_jg (618674) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @09:31PM (#26324851)

      Methods mentioned in the article include:
      quietly breaking in physically and installing a keylogger, parking up nearby and breaking in via the wireless, or sending a trojan via email.
      This gives them email, browsing history, local documents, and presumably other information going forward.
      They also have the capability under the RIP act to intercept emails, web-traffic and other 'net use via a tap at the ISP itself.

      All of this without any court oversight or warrants. But they'll only do it if a senior police officer believes it's necessary to gather evidence of a crime carrying a sentence greater than 3 years.

      Well, that's alright then! as long as a policeman is suspicious of me, that's a perfectly good enough reason to remove all court oversight of police intrusion into my private life!

      Jesus.

      • Re:How?? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday January 04, 2009 @09:51PM (#26325023) Homepage Journal

        meh, court oversight doesn't do anything anyway. The courts are happy to rubber stamp any search warrant where there is reasonable expectation that evidence might be found. And if the police find nothing? Oh, there's no oversight on that. Around 1998 I had police knock on my door and seize my computers because they had obtained a warrant on the grounds that I had spoken online with someone who had hacked into a national ISP via a corporate phone conference line, running up their bills. The police had reason to believe that they might find evidence of his crime on my computers. As such, I was required to suffer the inconvenience of having my hardware forfeit for months while they investigated. In the end they found nothing and, after much harassing on my part, eventually returned the hardware. No apology, no oversight.

        • Re:How?? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by cusco (717999) <brian.bixbyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday January 04, 2009 @10:34PM (#26325347)
          As one of the participants at DefCon said a couple of years ago when discussing the FBI's 'Magic Lantern' software, "If they want to arrest you they don't even need any evidence any more. They can just dump some kiddie porn in your browser cache and kick in the door. Good luck proving it wasn't you that put it there."
      • Re:How?? (Score:5, Funny)

        by JackieBrown (987087) <dbroome@gmail.com> on Sunday January 04, 2009 @10:57PM (#26325521)

        As long as they are quiet when they physically break in, I'm ok with it.

        Invasion of privacy is one thing, but loud noise I will not tolerate.

    • Re:How?? (Score:5, Funny)

      by JamesRose (1062530) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @09:38PM (#26324913)

      I believe they crawl in through the tubes.

    • Re:How?? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Allicorn (175921) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @10:19PM (#26325241) Homepage

      [tinfoil-hat]The annual free tax utility software CDs from the Revenue[/tinfoil-hat]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ancientt (569920)

      The "How?" portion is an important question. The article mentions getting access to someone's hard drive, which is a very specific form of hacking. They specifically mention sending a malware email attachment and using keyloggers (hardware/software is not clear.)

      The method really does make a very significant difference. If the malware email is the primary method then that limits successful hacks to those with hopelessly outdated email clients and people who open attachments that they shouldn't. Effectivel

  • sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @09:21PM (#26324781) Journal

    so it seems that 1984 only got the year wrong after all. unfortunately the fear and paranoia in the public's mind is only going to fuel more of this ridiculous nonsense.

    • Re:sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by arkhan_jg (618674) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @09:52PM (#26325039)

      Bear in mind, when the RIP act first came into force, only the police and security services had rights under it to perform such things as covert suveillance, and retrieve your email and phone records without a warrant. Now those powers have been devolved to all sorts of bodies, including local councils - which has led to a council covertly following a 4 year old to see if she actually lived in the cachement area of a local school (and so was eligable to attend), and another getting email and phone records to investigate a case of illegal rubbish dumping - all without warrants.

      How long before local government and other civic bodies have the right to send me a trojan via email, or break into my wireless to investigate an accusation of some petty civil offence without a warrant?

    • Re:sigh (Score:5, Informative)

      by digitig (1056110) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @10:06PM (#26325139)
      1984 didn't even get the year wrong; it was a deliberate reversal of the last two digits of 1948, the year of the book's publication, and within the limits of the technology available it was all going on then.
  • The real question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by moniker127 (1290002) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @09:23PM (#26324797)
    When your government is hacking you, is it illegal to lock them out?
    • by wizardforce (1005805) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @09:30PM (#26324845) Journal

      from their point of view it is, in the US and presumably the UK the constitution would say otherwise but since when do any of them bother following their constitutions? They can get away with this nonsense because not enough people are fighting it and too many people think "well only terrorists and other criminals should be afraid." The thing to keep in mind is that once you can justify unconstitutional acts against criminals there isn't too much standing between that position and "lets violate everyone's civil rights."

    • Re:The real question (Score:5, Informative)

      by arkhan_jg (618674) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @09:36PM (#26324893)

      Under the RIP act, no. 2 years in jail for refusing to hand your encryption keys over upon demand, as long as the police have a reasonable suspicion that you have them. If you're accused of child-porn or terrorism offences, it goes up to 5 years for refusing to hand over your keys.

      • by CodeBuster (516420) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @09:47PM (#26324997)
        Has it occured to anyone else that with all of the surveillance and tracking going on in the UK that they might simply make certain crimes, like say identity theft, more attractive without really reducing the overall amount of crime or catching those who are actually responsible?
        • by arkhan_jg (618674) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @09:57PM (#26325081)

          Identity theft has risen sharply in the UK in recent years, as it has globally. A specific example include people cloning or stealing car number plates so they can drive in the London congestion charge zone without paying, and somebody else gets the fines.

          Government advice? Spend a significant sum replacing our number plates with ones that break if they're removed, or pay credit-insurance in case our financial details are stolen.

          I'm sure it's occured to the government that people are starting to use identity theft more to avoid detection. They just use that as an excuse to pass ever-more draconian laws allowing them to dig into your private-life ever deeper without warrants; in case, you know, you're a terrorist.

        • by jc42 (318812) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @11:06PM (#26325589) Homepage Journal

          Has it occured to anyone else that with all of the surveillance and tracking going on in the UK that they might simply make certain crimes, like say identity theft, more attractive without really reducing the overall amount of crime or catching those who are actually responsible?

          Well, my first thought was that it's only a matter of time until they learn that part of the rise in identity theft is because some of the cops are setting up profitable businesses on the side, subletting their access to citizens' computers to the identity thieves.

          Have there been any cases like this in the UK yet? I'd expect that they are happening now, but the information may not be public yet.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Steemers (1031312)

        A direct consequence of this is that it only takes one (or more?) people in law enforcement to believe that you try to keep something from them to be sentenced two or five years prison.
        No one will ever know it if you just forgot the password.
        Have you ever forgotten a password?

  • by toby (759) * on Sunday January 04, 2009 @09:34PM (#26324871) Homepage Journal

    Simple.

    In other news, *foreign* governments are 'stepping up' hacking of UK submarines and warships installed with Windows [msdn.com] :P

  • by freedom_india (780002) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @09:35PM (#26324883) Homepage Journal

    Finally!
    It is time we hack the cabinet ministers home PCs and publish the information in slashdot.
    After all they too are "residents".

  • by TACD (514008) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @09:37PM (#26324897) Homepage
    Police might also send an e-mail to a suspect's computer. The message would include an attachment that contained a virus or "malware".

    Really? The recommended methodology of the police is the same as that used by opportunistic criminals to steal credit card information, that the police warn about?

    C'mon, it's just impossible to satirize this kind of thing. It's not fair.

  • by CodeBuster (516420) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @09:41PM (#26324945)
    It is not possible to allow the "good guys" only to have access to secure operating systems and security technologies such as encryption while simultaneously locking the "bad guys" out. The British government will have to decide what is more important, providing secure online banking, shopping, and other electronic services as part of operating in a modern economy OR hobbling the information economy with restrictions to catch a few more low-level or careless "bad guys" at the expense of even more loss of privacy for millions of ordinary British citizens and substantial encumbrance of legitimate economic activity involving computers, the Internet, and other "sensitive" technologies. If it is easy for the police to "hack in" then it is easy for the spammers, terrorists, or anyone else to "hack in" as well. The British reaction always seems to be, "We ought to have a law against that!" instead of simply acceptating that bad things will sometimes happen despite the best laid plans or intentions and moving on with "acceptable risks" in an open society.

You can do this in a number of ways. IBM chose to do all of them. Why do you find that funny? -- D. Taylor, Computer Science 350

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