FBI hacked computers in 120 countries with just one warrant, revealed court documents

Data Theft, What the Hack

It was the occasion of court filings for the case related to very high profile child pornography “Playpen” case which revealed the astonishing fact.

The court filings elucidate the magnitude of FBI’s hacking campaign, that targeted computers across 120 countries and obtained 8000 IP addresses, with a single warrant.

It was December 2014, the FBI received a information from a foreign law enforcement agency about a Tor Hidden Service site called “Playpen” hosting child pornography. Investigating the same lead to the largest known hacking operation in U.S. law enforcement history.

Such mass hacking is prohibited under current laws stated under America’s Rule 41. But these days, US government gears up for major changes to the law. This would allow magistrate judges to permit law authorities for mass hacking of computers located in any part of the world.

According to the filed transcript, federal public defender Colin Fieman said during the hearing “In Our nation’s history we have never seen such an utterly sweeping of a warrant”. Colin Fieman is a legal representative of several defendants in the affected cases.

Documents related to the case uncovered that the FBI had hacked into over 1,000 computers, by deploying its malware called NIT (network investigative technique), with just one warrant. It was revealed that the FBI hacked into computers in countries including Australia, Austria, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Greece, and likely the UK, Turkey, and Norway.

Responding to this, Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told “The fact that a single magistrate judge could authorize the FBI to hack 8,000 people in 120 countries is truly terrifying,” to Motherboard.

Soghoian added: “With the changes to Rule 41, this is probably the new normal. We should be ready to see many of such thing in future.”

Cyber Privacy activists and cybersecurity experts in the past have raised concerns about the anticipated changes to Rule 41 multiple times. However, The US Department of Justice (DOJ) recently published a blog post justifying the need and necessity for the expansion and changes to Rule 41.