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I’m a supporter of the Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF), the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. EFF works to ensure that rights and freedoms are enhanced and protected as our use of technology grows.
The Department of Justice is using an obscure procedure to push through a rule change that will greatly increase law enforcement’s ability to hack into computers located around the world. It’s an update to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. If Congress does nothing, this massive change will automatically go into effect on December 1.
Why you should care about changes to “Rule 41”
It will result in a dramatic increase in government hacking. Here’s an overview of some of the main reasons to be concerned:
- Government agents hacking into computers more frequently is a recipe for disaster. Law enforcement will increase their exploitation of security vulnerabilities in common software products, meaning vulnerabilities that could affect millions will be left open instead of patched.
- Law enforcement will forum shop, finding government-friendly magistrate judges to sign off on warrants with a loose connection to the judicial district.
- Law enforcement will pressure judges to sign off on remote searches of thousands of computers with a single warrant—a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment and a pattern we’re already seeing.
This rule change especially impacts people using privacy protective technologies like Tor or VPNs.