Access Now backs congressional action to prevent FBI hacking change

Washington, D.C. — Access Now welcomes today’s floor speech by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden calling for passage of legislation to prevent looming changes that would greatly expand the FBI’s hacking operations. Senator Wyden referred to the bipartistan Stopping Mass Hacking Act (SMH Act), S. 2952, that would prevent changes to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. These changes would enable the FBI to hack into the computers of botnet victims or persons using anonymizing software regardless of their location. Without passage of S. 2952, the changes to Rule 41 will take effect on December 1, 2016.

“While Congress is willing to engage in conversations about government hacking conducted by other countries, it is ignoring the privacy and security risks of the U.S. government’s own ongoing hacking operations. Now is the time for the U.S. to take a hard look at its approach to hacking, to explain its use, and put in place appropriate safeguards for human rights. That starts with hearings on S. 2952 and the changes to Rule 41,” said Drew Mitnick, Policy Counsel at Access Now.

The changes to Rule 41 would allow government agents to go to nearly any magistrate judge to get a warrant to hack into the devices of victims of botnet attacks, anywhere in the world, without their knowledge or consent. Government hacking can cause considerable, unpredictable damage to devices and harm to human rights, yet under the changes one warrant could be used to gain access to the devices of up to millions of users.

Access Now created an action page to help people speak out against changes to Rule 41 at https://www.accessnow.org/rule41.