back to article America has one month to stop the FBI getting its global license to hack

In one month, an obscure procedural rule tweak will come into effect allowing US cops and federal agents to potentially hack any computer in the world using a single warrant issued anywhere in America. No one in Congress has voted on this legal update. It means a warrant granted somewhere within the US can be executed on the …

  1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
    Boffin

    Glaciers

    Whoa, did El Reg just acknowledge climate change? I may faint.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Glaciers

      You're not trying to highjack this thread, are you?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Glaciers

        Congress has not debated this change and the new rules will come into effect on December 1 unless our respected legislators get it together to pass a law banning it. Despite Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY) introducing the Stopping Mass Hacking Act to do just this, progress has been glacial

        Progress on the bill has been glacial because President Obama has indicated that he would not sign the Stopping Mass Hacking Act.

      2. BillG
        IT Angle

        Read It!

        Let's not over-react here. From justice.gov:

        Rule 41 Changes Ensure a Judge May Consider Warrants for Certain Remote Searches

        "The amendments would apply in two narrow circumstances:"

        "First, where a suspect has hidden the location of his or her computer using technological means, the changes to Rule 41 would ensure that federal agents know which judge to go to in order to apply for a warrant..."

        "And second, where the crime involves criminals hacking computers located in five or more different judicial districts, the changes to Rule 41 would ensure that federal agents may identify one judge to review an application for a search warrant rather than be required to submit separate warrant applications in each district..."

        "This change would not permit indiscriminate surveillance of thousands of victim computers—that is against the law now and it would continue to be prohibited if the amendment goes into effect."

        Sometimes reality is markedly different from what the press is repeating.

        1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

          Re: Read It!

          Err, considering they already break the law and refuse to comply... and that the rules as they stand very clearly allow them to connect outside the US...

        2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: BillG

          We've added the DoJ's points to the article, thanks for reminding us of them. But they don't change the thrust of the story at all - Rule 41 allows agents to apply for one warrant to one judge to search a very wide area. And it allows the Feds to search infected computers.

          Maybe you're OK with that. Fine. But some people aren't.

          C.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: BillG

            May I also point out that the USA can write legislation every which way it wants, but it does not have the authority to override national sovereignty? I know people in DC would desperately want that, but that's not how it works - they will still have to deploy the usual blackmail and (worst case) tit-for-tat tactics.

            What that does change, however, is your ability to prosecute anyone for it: as it's legal in the US, the only way you can do it is on a local, national basis, and the US is unlikely to collaborate.

            Honestly, I don't know what it is over there. I think the water poisoning problem is more widespread than they think..

            1. MSmith

              Re: BillG

              They will probably say the interstate commerce clause allows them to regulate it and the agency is acting under an executive order to do it. That is how they would justify it.

          2. BillG
            Unhappy

            Re: BillG

            @diodesign no, I'm not OK with that and it is not fine with me.

            Truth is I'm more pessimistic than you. Regardless of the law, our data on both sides of the Atlantic is going to be slurped and bugged by our respective spook agencies because if they can get at it, they will.

            There was en El Reg article some time back about an Android app that left the microphone on all the time. Google's response to that was hey, if you're gonna do that, get the user's consent. My comment was no, it's wiretapping and they should go to jail.

            If commercial companies can get away with wiretapping by putting it in the EULA, what will governments get away with?

          3. gnarlymarley Bronze badge

            Re: BillG

            Maybe you're OK with that. Fine. But some people aren't.

            Just like diodesign says, some of us are okay with this and some aren't.

            I do not do anything wrong, so one would think I am okay with this. The reason I am not okay with mass hacking and mass data collection is the government is so overwhelmed with data, that they cannot find the criminals, like they used to be able to find in years past. Adding more data is doing nothing more that adding hay to the pile in order to find the one needle. In my humble opinion, adding more hay just makes it harder to find the needle in the haystack.

            My guess is that the folks that are okay with it are the criminals and they probably know that adding more data just makes them harder to find.

        3. caffeine addict Silver badge

          Re: Read It!

          @BillG - the first of those "narrow circumstances" covers anyone with a proxy, VPN or Tor connection. Which makes it a lot less narrow for anyone with security concerns.

        4. The_Idiot

          Re: Read It!

          "The amendments would apply in two narrow circumstances:"

          "First, where a suspect has hidden the location of his or her computer using technological means, the changes to Rule 41 would ensure that federal agents know which judge to go to in order to apply for a warrant..."

          I rather think the author of the quote above may have a different dictionary than the one I use - at least as far as the word 'narrow' is concerned.

          "where a suspect has hidden the location of his or her computer using technological means"

          Would all VPN users qualify? On a first pass reading, does VPN qualify as a means of hiding your computer using 'technological means'? I'd say yes. So if that's right, all VPN users fall into this 'narrow' band. Add in all the TOR users, and the word 'narrow' seems even less applicable to me. Slide laterally, and add in https and encryption (yes, I know it's a stretch to call those 'hiding the location', but that's why lawyers get big pay checks), and 'narrow' starts to look rather more like the type of lady generally quoted as singing once it's all done and dusted.

          Of course you should probably ignore me - I'm an Idiot (blush).

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Really?

    With that little diversion called the US Presidential Election and the inevitable post election bloodbath (aka confirmation hearings) what chance is there of this slipping through the net? Oh, about 100%.

    Perhaps the latest Hillary diversion is just part of their cunning plan to get this power so that no one in the USA is safe from their prying.

    Posting AC while I can. If the feds have their way I'd expect that any posting using anything but your real certified name will become illegal.

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: Really?

      Honestly Anon, I think the burden of proof would be on them. Personally I think Anonymous Coward is a fine name. To me it sounds of Latin origin, so I'm guessing some of your ancestors were Italian but from your picture I'd have to say it's dominated by Norman-French, no?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    US LAW

    But the FBI would still be in breach of Uk /EU and every other date protection law in the world .May be fun to see all the FBI agents get arested untill the top man gets extradited to answer charges.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Mushroom

      Re: US LAW

      You are forgetting one little detail - the US insists on being able to extradite people to its courts, but refuses to allow extraditions of US citizens when they need to face the music. Also the FBI does not care a damn about the law, whether in the US or outside of it. The Hoover mentality to law enforcement was never really expunged.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: US LAW

        There is a US Law that extends ALL US Law to every inch of the planet. Nowhere is outside the jurisdiction of the FBI (and the other TLA's). That's why all those 'hackers' get taken to the US and the prosecutors try to get them 999 years in jail for an offence that might get 5 years max here.

        One recent murderer was sentenced to 12 consequitive life sentences without parole PLUS 99 years.

        That sums us US (in)justice.

        1. Marshalltown

          Re: US LAW

          What WOULD be a just sentence for a murderer? I agree that extending "jurisdiction" is questionable at best, but seriously, using a murder sentence as an example of injustice?

          1. h4rm0ny

            Re: US LAW

            I believe they were using the murder sentence as an example of irrationality - 12 consecutive lofe sentences. Seriously?

            Though it can work as an example of how the US court system is about vengeance rather than justice too. I mean what the Hell is the point of imprisoning someone for 12 life sentences? It blatantly doesn't work as a deterrent as even one life sentence (or even a few years) would act as a deterrent to any rational person. And it sure as Hell isn't about redemption or rehabilitation. Such sentences exist only as a means by which US society can express its desire for punishment. It is a country with a very strong streak of Biblical righteousness to its character. They love to see sinners punished!

        2. Erroneous Howard

          Re: US LAW

          Team America - World Police

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Stop

        Re: US LAW

        > "You are forgetting one little detail..."

        Please don't spread nasty misinformation, okay?

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extradition_law_in_the_United_States

        FTA: "The United States has extradition treaties with more than 100 countries."

        It goes on to show what a fool you are, in case you were wondering.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: US LAW

          "The United States has extradition treaties with more than 100 countries."

          So they can extradite from more than 100 countries. If those treaties are along the lines of the US/UK treaty it's likely that a lot of people will be extradited to the US but not many from it.

          1. rtb61

            Extradition Treaties

            Some thing people often forget not all extradition treaties are equal and some require strict adherence to the law and also require that the crime must also be illegal in the country being targeted by the extradition request. Part of that also being they must have adhered to local laws and using a US search warrant would be tossed out as a joke, the evidence would be tainted and extradition would fail.

            So the law is a really bad idea, as it would promote bad investigation and failed extradition attempts in many countries.

            1. Peter2 Silver badge

              Re: Extradition Treaties

              "I mean what the Hell is the point of imprisoning someone for 12 life sentences?"

              I don't know, and without the details it's impossible to know. Did this person commit 12 murders? If so, I'd imagine that probably has something to do with it.

              1. Tom 38 Silver badge

                Re: Extradition Treaties

                But they didn't have 12 trials, so why have 12 sentences? When the judge is totting up the convictions and determining the tariff, once you get to "Not until you are dead, no parole", you can't make that worse.

                1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
                  Joke

                  Re: Extradition Treaties

                  At least if you sentence someone to 12x life you can deduct a life or two for good behaviour and still not let him out

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Extradition Treaties

                    At least if you sentence someone to 12x life you can deduct a life or two for good behaviour and still not let him out

                    You could even give them a volume discount then, like companies get when they exposed the personal details of millions of people. If the fines were imposed properly they would be out of business, and a few of those would at least ensure the rest would start to take security seriously.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: US LAW

          "The United States has extradition treaties with more than 100 countries."

          The issue is more that the treaties are seen to be lop-sided in favour of the US, e.g.:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK%E2%80%93US_extradition_treaty_of_2003

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: US LAW

          What is FTA? Free trade-area? Free trade agreement? Fuck them all?

        4. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: US LAW

        "You are forgetting one little detail - the US insists on being able to extradite people to its courts, but refuses to allow extraditions of US citizens when they need to face the music."

        We're holding a convention on international law enforcement in Berlin. Here are the invitations for the top tiers of the FBI administration...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: US LAW

          We're holding a convention on international law enforcement in Berlin

          Actually, the head of Europol is invited to speak at a London privacy lecture in late January. This strikes me as a perfect topic to have a chat about..

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: US LAW

        You are forgetting one little detail - the US insists on being able to extradite people to its courts...

        I thought Obama promised to end all that?

        1. Captain DaFt

          Re: US LAW

          "I thought Obama promised to end all that?"

          Wow, just.. wow.

          It's 2016 and people still expect a politician to keep a campaign promise?

          The unspoken first line of the oath of office is:

          "Anything I may have said or implied prior to this is null and void."

      5. Ole Juul

        Re: US LAW

        "the US insists on being able to extradite people to its courts, but refuses to allow extraditions of US citizens when they need to face the music."

        That is indeed the status quo. If this was bilateral we would be seeing FBI agents extradited to Romania and US citizens would lose faith in their insular world.

  4. DerekCurrie Bronze badge
    Facepalm

    Get Ready US Supreme Court. Abuses of Rule 41 Are Going to Slap You Back.

    The US Supreme Court ruling that enables what amounts to generic, unconstitutional warrants is one of the stupidest in history. IMHO it amounts to blatant laziness on their part, demonstrating a lack of insight into the ramifications of their stupid decision. Poorly done.

    I'll be one of the people gladly contributing to the legal efforts to UNdo what the US Supreme Court blunderingly pulled.

    Reference:

    The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution:

    "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

    I.E. Never any generic warrants. No law school training is required to figure out that fact.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Get Ready US Supreme Court. Abuses of Rule 41 Are Going to Slap You Back.

      The US Constitution is assumed to protect US citizens, and maybe resident aliens, but not everyone in the world. If the FBI hacks into a Saudi's computer while he's in France, that's not a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

      The French or Saudi government might have a problem with it, but it isn't a constitutional issue in the US.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Get Ready US Supreme Court. Abuses of Rule 41 Are Going to Slap You Back.

      IMHO it amounts to blatant laziness on their part

      Oh, but that has been a general theme. If you analyse anti-terror legislation, it's mainly established because they buried themselves so deep in red tape that agility became all but a distant memory and rather than fix that root problem (which, by a happy coincidence, would have benefitted almost everyone except those to need red tape to hide incompetence) they used the terror situation to force through laws that anyone with a clear mind would have rejected off hand.

      demonstrating a lack of insight into the ramifications of their stupid decision

      Ah, you have that wrong. They have known damn well what they have been doing - it's a consistent, slowly grinding strategy to erode any remaining rights of the poorer side of the US population (a growing volume). Remember, resistance is only possible through a process the average person can no longer afford: getting a lawyer. As robo-signing and civil asset forfeiture demonstrate, it doesn't even matter if you're NOT a criminal and mistakes are made, only you can put things right because the system sure as hell will no longer even contemplate being wrong.

      It's a crying shame seeing so much potential wasted. Elections are in that respect revealing: we have never had so many idiots on the ballot that in earlier days would not have even been considered. I fully expect Kim Cardashian or Harold Shipman to appear on UK's next election, even though the latter has been dead for over a decade.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Get Ready US Supreme Court. Abuses of Rule 41 Are Going to Slap You Back.

      "The right of the people"

      You are mistaking US constitution and let's say UN or Eu conventions on Human Rights.

      US constitution postulates rights only for American citizens. These are the only "People". Unless explicitly specified in an specific act of Conress and an international treaty for which there is a grand count of ONE precedent (yes one - and only for a specific narrow range of cases related to data protection), everyone else has no rights. They are scum, can and should be treated as vermin.

      This is different from UN and Eu which postulate that the human rights including the equivalent right to privacy and protection from unreasonable searches are UNIVERSAL.

      Rule 41 main thrust is against foreign subjects - the vermin. So it is not likely it will be challenged in the USA constitutional court any time soon.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Get Ready US Supreme Court. Abuses of Rule 41 Are Going to Slap You Back.

        Hold on, the US does have treaties with the UN and various countries all around the world for respecting various human rights. Whether this "global license to hack" would be covered or not I have no idea, but since hacking has only become a concern recently compared to the life of many such treaties there may be a gap.

        I was only objecting to the citation of the US Constitution as a reason why it would be prohibited in the US, and pointing out that the Constitution does not protect everyone on Earth. Nor should it. Most other countries' constitutions don't protect me, either. Don't act as if "everyone else has no rights" as far as the US is concerned if they're not covered by the Constitution, because that's categorically untrue and furthermore it is ridiculous anyone could be so stupid as to believe such a thing!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    anywhere in the world

    well, they can bomb anywhere, so it's all just to solidify the rule of the law...

    1. harmjschoonhoven

      Re: anywhere in the world

      Is the U.S. at war? Sorry, that's classified.

      Rosa Brooks, a former Pentagon staffer and author of "How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales From the Pentagon," argues that U.S. citizens and lawmakers should shake off fears of appearing unpatriotic to challenge the U.S.'s unchecked, unilateral and covert military activities abroad. If that doesn't happen soon, the United States may have to pay for the dangerous example it's setting for powers like Russia and China.

  6. Only me!
    Facepalm

    Laws and laws

    If it is against my countries laws to hack my computer.....then it is not allowed,

    As long as a country sticks to human rights, then I consider them to be able to make such a law and enforce it.

    If you are going to do this stuff (they all do it) do it in the dark world of the the secret agent....and do not try and arrest a teenager for doing something stupid, save it for the real stuff like killing people and wars!

  7. Christoph Silver badge

    Hopefully all the other countries will declare the FBI to be an illegal organisation, and will arrest and imprison any FBI agent or employee found in their country.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well, the FBI head allowed the criminal Clinton to skate a few months ago, so yes they have been corrupted and need a full housecleaning. Ain't gonna happen if Clinton gets to be Prexy tho...

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        You're not trying to highjack this thread, are you?

      2. Marshalltown

        Clinton is pretty bad, but look at the other candidates. Johnson (the best of the bad) ignorant as the day is long. Stein, ick, really, really ick. Watch John Oliver's segment on them . Trump, far, far bigger crook than Clinton, a narcissist sociopath (at best) and a far worse history than Clinton, "admires" Putin, talks (and even sounds) like the Penguin in the second Batman movie, hated in Scotland, Mexico and wherever he decides he wants your land for his purposes. I hate to say it but for years now it has seemed like the US elections were a race to see just how egregious a candidate could get elected. I suspect given some of the parallels with classical Athens that it may be an endemic flaw in aging democracies. Jefferson plainly suspected it.

        1. Bernard M. Orwell

          Hilary Clinton; everything that is wrong with US politics.

          Donald J Trump; everything that is wrong with US culture.

          Hobsons choice.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Joke

            As I recall, the founding father's original intention is that the winner of the presidential election becomes President, the loser becomes Vice President.

            I'd love to see that brought back for this election!

  8. Herby Silver badge

    Just a note...

    Ron Wyden is NOT R-OR, he is very D-OR!!

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    Kentucky

    Or "lube state" as I like to think of it.

    On a serious note this flagrant extra territorial BS is a very slippery precedent.

    Muck like STUXNET

    The FBI should be very careful of starting something others might finish.

  10. moiety

    What do you reckon the legal position is of automatically hitting them with a mixed bag of exploits in response to a hack attempt if you're in a different country?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      @ moiety, In answer to your question; I suspect Extraordinary Rendition or similar might be the response as it doesn't really require a 'legal position' you just disappear and find your new accomodation is in Poland or Cuba etc.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FBI / KGB

    Your face, your ass, what's the difference?

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: FBI / KGB

      One major difference: One of them changed its name; it's FSB nowadays. KGB sounds so last century

      But then a spook bureau by any other name would smell as fishy

  12. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
    Joke

    ...previously hacked...

    "But, Your Honor, Rule 41 says that we're allowed to break in to a previously hacked computer."

    "Well, Mr FBI attorney, how do you know it was previously hacked?"

    "That's simple to prove, Your Honor. We did it."

  13. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Soap opera

    with the US reaching the climax of its quadrennial presidential soap opera

    I can tell you how it ends.

    Donald wakes up to find himself in the shower, and realises the last two years have all been nothing but a dream.

  14. lukewarmdog
    Joke

    america uber alles

    Steven Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith snagged a photo-op with Obama. Joe later referred to him as Commander-in-Chief and leader of the free world.

    That's what taking too many drugs does to you. You end up thinking there's a free world..

    http://ijr.com/2016/10/724753-aerosmith-frontmen-post-pic-with-obama-that-sparks-drama-within-the-band/

  15. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    I want "The D" to win

    The US system is dysfunctional and has been for decades. Nominal party memberships of both houses barely pay lip service to their sides stated goals.

    It's time the American people capped this huge portion of fail with a leader worthy of such people.

    5 years of him should give the survivors of his presidency a little more respect for the consequences of their actions.

  16. adam payne Silver badge

    "The change, approved by the Supreme Court, is in Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Right now, if law enforcement wants to hack a PC, they have to ask a judge for a warrant in the jurisdiction where it is located. With the rule change, they could do this to any computer anywhere in the US or the world."

    Well there's a slight problem I think, laws in the US mean absolutely nothing over here.

    "This change would not permit indiscriminate surveillance of thousands of victim computers—that is against the law now and it would continue to be prohibited if the amendment goes into effect"

    That is against the law but most people will say it happens anyway.

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