Widgets Magazine

We just want to look at your computer…

Some of you may already be aware that AVNation is a member of the Electronic Frontier Alliance (EFA). Many of the board members of AVNation are also supporters and members of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). You have probably read some of the pieces about Net Neutrality by Josh Srago on the site. Privacy, security, and freedom for the individual is one of my touchstones. On my personal site I have written about these topics.
There are proposed rule changes within the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure that are important enough that Josh, Tim, and myself decided that AVNation should be involved. I do not claim to be an expert on all the legalities and intricacies, however from the comments that the EFF have provided to me, I immediately felt it was important to bring up to our community. The proposed amendment to procedural Rule 41 would allow a judge to issue a warrant allowing law enforcement to remotely enter (hack) a computer when “the district where the media or information is located has been concealed through technological means,” or when the media are on protected computers that have been “damaged without authorization and are located in five or more districts.”
The first portion of this means that if one uses a means to hide their location, for any reason, a search warrant would be allowed. This portion applies to many of us; we typically use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to connect to our offices or other locations. A byproduct of a VPN connection is that the remote computer’s location can be obfuscated by the process. It also could be interpreted to mean that turning off location services on a mobile device would allow for a warrant. Both of these two items means that if one were to have a computer not indicate its accurate position, a qualification for a search warrant has been met.
The second portion is also damaging in that it allows for innocent computers to be searched if they have been remotely hacked already. If a computer is an unwitting member of a botnet that would meet a qualification for a search warrant. The infected or innocent computer could be searched even if the owner is not involved or suspected of wrong doing.
To me there is a third reason that this issue is important – this process is being done under the guise of procedural rules. There is no debate, no review by elected officials, just a procedural change to allow more access. To quote James Madison, “There are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” This procedural step is a gradual and silent move to most people.
Much of this information was gathered from the webpage https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/06/help-us-stop-updates-rule-41

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