In my last email I had some bad news. I told you that the U.S. Supreme Court had just approved changes to something called “Rule 41” that would make it easier for the Department of Justice to hack into computers anywhere in the world, even those of “botnet” victims. I told you that the new rule would take effect in December of this year… unless Congress passed legislation to stop it.
Today, I have some good news. Senator Ron Wyden just stepped up to the challenge and introduced legislation that would block the change! The bill is called S. 2952, Stopping Mass Hacking Act. (SMH Act.)
Across the internet, “SMH” (Shaking My Head) is commonly used to indicate dismay or disappointment. And it’s perfect for this bill. The changes to Rule 41 would enable the FBI to assume broad hacking powers — without ANY discussion in Congress. It makes a major policy change by substantively modifying rules that are only supposed to be about process. It’s undermining Congress and it comes without any protection for OUR computers.
Look, passing legislation in an election year is not going to be easy. Government hacking is a secretive and complicated issue. While the FBI has finally confirmed that they hack, there’s virtually no information available about how or when. It’s no surprise that Congress just doesn’t understand the issue. At least not yet.
But Senator Wyden and his co-sponsors just took a big step forward. They’re ready to fight to protect our rights, and we support them. The next step is for the Senate and House Judiciary Committees to hold hearings about government hacking and Rule 41. In the coming days and weeks, we’ll be sharing some tools to pressure these committees to take action.
In the meantime, let’s thank these senators for their work by sharing this post (or our press release about the bill) and tweeting our support using #SMHAct. Maybe even include your favorite SMH gif while you’re at it.
Right now, the most important thing we can do is educate people about Rule 41 and what these changes mean. This is a bit like Net Neutrality — it sounds confusing at first, but then you realize how it important it is. We need to work together to help our friends “get” Rule 41, before the FBI visits a computer near you. (Okay, that was kind of cheesy, but you get my point.)