Door Ot van Daalen
Bits of Freedom
October 19, 2012

On 15 October, the Dutch ministry of Justice and Security proposed powers for the police to break into computers, install spyware, search computers and destroy data. These powers would extend to computers located outside the Netherlands. Dutch digital rights movement Bits of Freedom warns for the unacceptable risks to cybersecurity and calls on other countries to strongly oppose the proposal.

photoDutch police car (Photo: Dickelbers (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons)

Three new powers: spy, search and destroy

The proposal would grant powers to the Dutch police to break into computers, including mobile phones, via the internet in order to:

• install spyware, allowing the police to overtake the computer;
• search data on the computer, including data on computers located in other countries; and
• destroy data on the computer, including data on computers located in other countries.

If the location of the computer cannot be determined, for example in the case of Tor-hidden services, the police is not required to submit a request for legal assistance to another country before breaking in. Under the current text, it is uncertain whether a legal assistance request would be legally required, or merely preferred, if the location of the computer is known. The exercise of these powers requires a warrant from a Dutch court.

Hacking proposal poses unacceptable cybersecurity risk

This proposal poses unacceptable risks. If the Dutch government gets the power to break into foreign computers, this gives other governments the basis to break into Dutch computers which infringe the laws of their country. The end result could be less security for all computer users, instead of more. This is even more true with regard to the power to destroy data on foreign computers; it is likely that other governments would be very interested in using such a power against Dutch interests.

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