The Supreme Court on Thursday approved changes that would make it easier for the FBI to hack into computers, many of them belonging to victims of cybercrime. The changes will take immediate affect in December, unless Congress adopts competing legislation.
Previously, under the federal rules on criminal procedures, a magistrate judge couldn’t approve a warrant request to search a computer remotely if the investigator didn’t know where the computer was—because it might be outside his or her jurisdiction.
The rule change, sent in a letter to Congress on Thursday, would allow a magistrate judge to issue a warrant to search or seize an electronic device if the target is using anonymity software like Tor. Over a million people use Tor to browse popular websites like Facebook every month for perfectly legitimate reasons, in addition to criminals who use it to hide their locations.
The changes, which would allow the FBI go hunting for anyone browsing the Internet anonymously in the U.S. with a single warrant, are already raising concerns among privacy advocates who have been closely following the issue.