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Electronic Frontier Foundation Government Privacy

Three Privacy Groups Challenge The FBI's Malware-Obtained Evidence ( 118

In 2015 the FBI took over a Tor-accessible child pornography site to infect its users with malware so they could be identified and prosecuted. But now one suspect is challenging that evidence in court, with three different privacy groups filing briefs in his support. An anonymous reader writes. One EFF attorney argues it's a classic case of an unreasonable search, which is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. "If the FBI tried to get a single warrant to search 8,000 houses, such a request would unquestionably be denied." But there's another problem, since the FBI infected users in 120 different countries. "According to Privacy International, the case also raises important questions: What if a foreign country had carried out a similar hacking operation that affected U.S. citizens?" writes Computerworld. "Would the U.S. welcome this...? The U.S. was overstepping its bounds by conducting an investigation outside its borders without the consent of affected countries, the group said."
The FBI's evidence is also being challenged by the ACLU of Massachusetts, and the EFF plans to file two more challenges in March, warning that otherwise "the precedent is likely to impact the digital privacy rights of all Internet users for years to come... Courts need to send a very clear message that vague search warrants that lack the required specifics about who and what is to be searched won't be upheld."
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Three Privacy Groups Challenge The FBI's Malware-Obtained Evidence

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 12, 2017 @03:12PM (#53851933)

    The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
            H. L. Mencken

  • And don't forget (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 12, 2017 @03:13PM (#53851945)

    James Comey and friends spent 2 weeks as the biggest distributors of child porn on the planet, when they took over a child porn website, added server capacity, and kept it running. I get that we want to catch the bad guys, but the FBI is way overstepping its bounds lately. If you agree with the concept that distributing child porn harms the children over and over again, then the FBI itself is responsible for unimaginable amounts of harm to kids.

  • What if a foreign country had carried out a similar hacking operation that affected U.S. citizens?" writes Computerworld.

    Foreign countries try to hack the computers of US citizens all the time.

  • The US Hacked Brazil (not only Petrobras, but also Brazillian Government websites) , as revealed by Snowden and by US Courts ( and nothing happened. It was the FBI, not even the CIA! ..And we are a friendly nation to the US. I have a belly laugh every time I see americans complaining about Russia hacking your elections, EVEN if its true.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by aod7br ( 573614 )
      Sorry, Had to reply to myself. Actually something DID happen, a democratically elected government was ousted in Brazil, and a US backed GANG took power and Brazil is a MESS politically since 2014.
    • by Demena ( 966987 )

      Australia, 1965.

      Being an ally of the US merely means you are pre-pwnd and held in contempt.

  • What it really boils down to (IMHO) is: Did the FBI entice or entrap anyone into visiting the seized website?

    I doubt very seriously that they advertised "kiddie porn here!", or worked to pump up their page rank on search engines. I'm reasonably sure that all of the visitors to their operational website were fully aware of exactly what they were doing, including the illegal nature of the material they were looking for. The website surreptitiously installed malware on their hosts, but this seems little di

  • It's a sting/honeypot.

    • by mmell ( 832646 )
      And the malware is comparable to surveillance of persons seen frequenting locations specifically known for illegal activity. As long as that's the only way the suspects in this case could've gotten the exploit software installed on their system, it's no different from monitoring drug users after seeing them make a buy, or johns after seeing them use the services of a prostitute.
    • Nope. A honeypot ends with the information that is wilfully given up.
      A sting is a very specific and very targeted operation governed by very specific rules.

      This is nothing like either of those. But hey if you know better I'm sure the ACLU would like to hear from you because I'm sure they wouldn't want to waste the money if someone is so sure that they will lose. I mean what do they and the EFF know.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Sunday February 12, 2017 @06:23PM (#53852721) Journal

    Spying on the population was a big driver behind the THIRD amendment:

    No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

    While forcing the colonists to provide housing and upkeep for the soldiers sent to oppress them was an economic issue, there was more to it than that.

    A soldier "quartered" in a colonist's house also served as a spy for the crown and its army. He eavesdropped on the conversations of the family and visiting friends. He had the opportunity to view their records when they weren't home (or even if they were). He reported anything suspicious to his unit. His presence inhibited getting together with others to hold private discussions, especially about opposing (by protest or otherwise) anything the government was doing. He was a continuous walking search, fed and housed by the people he was investigating.

    It seems to me that law-enforcement and intelligence agency spyware, such as keyloggers and various data exfiltration tools, is EXACTLY the digital equivalent: It is a digital agent that "lives" in the home or office of the target. It consums the target's resources (disk space, CPU cycles network bandwidth) to support itself. It spies spying on the activities and "papers" of the target, reporting anything suspicious (or anything, actually) back to its commander, to be used as evidence and/or to trigger an arrest or other attack. It is ready, at a moment's notice, to forcefully interfere with, destroy, or corrupt the target's facilities or send forged messages from him.

    Spyware is EXACTLY one of the most egregious acts (one of the "Intolerable Acts") that sparked the American Revolution. I'd love to see the Third brought back out of the doldrums and used against these "digital soldiers" the government is "quartering" inside our personal and private computing devices.

  • Phrasing! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Sunday February 12, 2017 @08:06PM (#53853055) Journal

    First they came for pedophiles, then they came for me.

    dammit, it wasn't meant to be a pun, it was meant to be an insightful commentary on how we can judge a society by how it treats the most despised and how they can use the same tools on the rest of us, dammit I did it again, I mean spy tools. Now because of you people and your twisted imaginations nothing can undo iterations of that pun from being in my head.

    This is the problem with infringing anyones rights, it turns wisdom into a bad joke.

  • by Bruce66423 ( 1678196 ) on Sunday February 12, 2017 @08:26PM (#53853145)

    Given that they have demanded the extradition of British citizens who have spied on US government websites from their homes in the UK, logically the FBI can be charged with the same offence...

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982