So the FBI can do some pretty wild surveillance things on your computer. But will they bother with the average person? I doubt it.
A terrorist suspect was under a watchful eye…
The FBI’s elite hacker team designed a piece of malicious software that was to be delivered secretly when Mo signed on to his Yahoo e-mail account, from any computer anywhere in the world, according to the documents. The goal of the software was to gather a range of information — Web sites he had visited and indicators of the location of the computer — that would allow investigators to find Mo and tie him to the bomb threats.
Such high-tech search tools, which the FBI calls “network investigative techniques,” have been used when authorities struggle to track suspects who are adept at covering their tracks online. The most powerful FBI surveillance software can covertly download files, photographs and stored e-mails, or even gather real-time images by activating cameras connected to computers, say court documents and people familiar with this technology.
This report details (as best as can be detailed) how the FBI dealt with this obviously dangerous guy. For example, like other hackers, the FBI exploited security weaknesses in computer programs to gain control of users’ machines. People in the know say standard phishing attacks — a link slipped into an e-mail, typically labeled in a misleading way – are the most used tool. By clicking on the link, the suspect’s computer is linked to the FBI site where exploitive software is installed for tracking. Devious. And probably necessary in this internet age. But where is the line?
This is the bit that got the most press coverage:
The FBI has been able to covertly activate a computer’s camera — without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording — for several years, and has used that technique mainly in terrorism cases or the most serious criminal investigations, said Marcus Thomas, former assistant director of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division in Quantico, now on the advisory board of Subsentio, a firm that helps telecommunications carriers comply with federal wiretap statutes.
The ability to remotely activate video feeds was among the issues cited in a case in Houston, where federal magistrate Judge Stephen W. Smith rejected a search warrant request from the FBI in April. In that case, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, Smith ruled that the use of such technology in a bank fraud case was “extremely intrusive” and ran the risk of accidentally capturing information of people not under suspicion of any crime.
I’m not a paranoid person but I also am not a terrorist nor committing a crime, so I have little to fear from FBI wiretaps (or the modern equivalent). Some will say that I am naive and this is dangerous stuff. I concede your point but who really wants to wade through all this cryptozoology and sciencey stuff on my machine anyway…
This will be conspiracy fodder for sure.