Tech coalition seeks to halt US govt mass hacking law

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Tech coalition seeks to halt US govt mass hacking law

Advocacy decries criminal procedure changes as dangerous.

A broadening of the United States federal rules of criminal procedure that would allow law enforcement agencies to conduct mass hacking is dangerous and should be rejected by lawmakers, tech advocacy group Computer and Communications Industry Association said.

CCIA published an open letter to both parties in Congress and the Senate, saying the proposed changes threaten the civil liberties of everyday internet users. 

Changes to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure would allow US magistrates to issue warrants that permit the FBI and other agencies to hack into thousands of computers at once, in cases where a particular system's location is unknown.

Such warrants would also allow the FBI and others to hack computers belonging to innocent internet users, who are victims of botnets.

The new criminal procedure rule is dangerously broad, and undermines the privacy of internet users, CCIA said. It would put journalists, business people, victims of domestic violence and other people at risk from privacy violations.

"Whenever the US government uses such vulnerabilities instead of working to see them swiftly fixed, other governments and malicious hackers will be able to exploit them as well," CCIA said

Google, Evernote, DuckDuckGo, Paypal, Wickr, and the Internet Archive are some of the tech companies that have put their names to the CCIA letter [pdf].

Digital rights lobby groups such as the Australian Privacy Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Government Accountability Project and Privacy International also signed the letter.

The changes will go into effect on December 1 this year, and CCIA is asking for bipartisan legislation to stop the update. It wants another bill, the Stopping Mass Hacking Act, to be supported instead.

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