Wyden bill seeks to block gov't hacking authority under Rule 41 changes

As promised, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced the Stopping Mass Hacking Act to block expansion of the government's hacking authority under Rule 41 changes.
As promised, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced the Stopping Mass Hacking Act to block expansion of the government's hacking authority under Rule 41 changes.

As a bill introduced yesterday by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) seeks to block the expansion of government's hacking authority under Rule 41 changes that would let magistrate judges issue warrants for remote access to computers located in any jurisdiction, the Justice Department has said such legislation is not necessary.

“The amendment would not authorize the government to undertake any search or seizure or use any remote search technique not already permitted under current law, and the amendment does not change any of the traditional protections and procedures” such as the probable cause requirement,” Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement sent to TechCrunch, noting the changes would “ensure that some court is available to consider whether” a warrant is in accordance with the Fourth Amendment. “This rule change would permit agents to go to one federal judge, rather than submit separate warrant applications to each of the 94 federal districts.”

But Wyden said unless Congress takes action before December 1 to pass the Stopping Mass Hacking Act, which seeks to limit judges authority outside their jurisdictions, “Americans' security and privacy will be thrown out the window and hacking victims will find themselves hacked again - this time by their own government.”

Kevin Bankston, director of New America's Open Technology Institute, encouraged Congress not to let that deadline slip by, saying that lawmakers have “never had a chance to consider the complex issues raised by such a significant change to the law.” Without Congressional action “these new government hacking rules will grant the Justice Department dangerous and unprecedented authority to hack millions of Americans, many of whom may only be guilty of being the victim of a malicious cyber attack themselves,” Bankston said in a statement emailed to SCMagazine.com.

And Ross Schulman, OTI senior counsel and co-director of New America's Cybersecurity Initiative, joined the chorus, urging Congress “to do its job and take the time to consider what rules must be put into place to check the unique risks to civil liberties and cybersecurity that are raised when the government secretly hacks into computers, whether located in the US or overseas.”

Late last week, Sen. Rand Paul said he would throw his support behind the bill and on Thursday, indeed he did, emerging as a co-sponsor of the proposed legislation, joining Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) as well as Montana's two senators, Steve Daines and Jon Tester, a Republican and a Democrat, respectively.

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