When Malware Isn’t Malware…?

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When Malware Isn’t Malware…?

Malware has become a major tool for the bad guys. It’s become increasingly easy for hackers to slip a little bit of bad code into your computer, through an email attachment, a “safe” download, or even through an image on a compromised site you may visit.

But is malware also becoming a tool for the good guys?

And are they still “good guys” once they’re using it?

The FBI have opened up the question by deploying malware during their recent operation to bring down a dark web child pornography site. Operation Playpen resulted in more than 100 arrests, which is a successful sting by any measure.

However, the use of FBI-created malware to obtain the evidence for the arrests have both security and privacy advocates worried. Before now, some judges have ruled that evidence obtained through malware has not been gathered with proper warrants and is, therefore, inadmissible.

And how does the FBI see it?

“A reasonable person or society would not interpret the actions taken by a law enforcement officer pursuant to a court order to be malicious.” At least, this is how it was phrased in the legal brief submitted – essentially, “we’re the good guys, so it’s gotta be ok, right?”

Let’s examine the premise that they’re the good guys. The FBI have been involved with unconstitutional racial profiling, hidden hate crimes, attempted to undermine Martin Luther King Jr., wiretapped and bugged citizens during prohibition, rounded up Japanese Americans to be interred during WWII, and have a record of encouraging and supporting domestic terrorists.

These “good guys” are rolling out a $1 billion facial recognition and biometrics database which indiscriminately includes innocent people, are making a big push to access your internet browsing history, and skulking around at political events secretly filming protestors.

We sure are betting big that the FBI are the good guys, and will remain the good guys, despite their shaky history of good behaviour and their constant, effective weakening of personal privacy rights.

In the latest assault, the Supreme Court has granted the FBI and DOJ expanded rights allowing a warrant to be obtained to hack multiple computers simultaneously, even when their locations are unknown and the owner is not suspected of a crime or is known to be innocent. It’s a free pass to hack any computer, for any reason.

And the tool the FBI will use? Well, they’re carefully calling it a “Network Investigation Tool” but I’d rather use a word we are all a little more familiar with: Malware.

Is Government hacking of private computers simply a sign of our dangerous times? Or is it a massive undermining of privacy rights, simply waiting for the right fascist dictator to come along to exploit it? Visit us on Facebook and tell us your thoughts.