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The FBI Hacked 8,000 Computers in 120 Countries With a Single Warrant

In August, we wrote about the FBI’s hacking tool that hacked computers in Austria. Throughout 2016, judges made decisions on the validity of the data obtained via the hack. A judge, without jurisdiction, allowed the FBI to hack 1000 computers. Now, court documents from a recent trial revealed that 8,000 computers got hacked.

According to the recent transcript, the FBI hacked at least 8,000 computers. They hacked computers in 120 different countries too. We knew the FBI hacked far beyond the scope outlined in the warrant. But illegal hacking of this scale was hardly considered a possibility.

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Federal public defender Colin Fieman said, following the October hearing: “We have never, in our nation’s history as far as I can tell, seen a warrant so utterly sweeping.”

The warrant and following hack was part of the FBI’s PlayPen take-down. FBI agents took control of the child pornography website in late 2015. Despite having control of the site, the FBI was still unable to identify users. They deployed a network investigative technique (NIT) to expose users.

Legal issues spouted from the way the FBI handled the case. The judge who signed the NIT warrant had jurisdiction Eastern District of Virginia. She was not allowed to permit hacking beyond her district. Yet, the FBI hacked PlayPen members across the US.

Federal judges ruled against the FBI several times, acknowledging the abuse of power.

Motherboard found, earlier this year, nine countries the FBI hacked—Australia, Austria, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Greece, UK, Turkey, and Norway.

Now, though, that list has become pale when compared to the countries in the new transcript.

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“The fact that a single magistrate judge could authorize the FBI to hack 8000 people in 120 countries is truly terrifying,” Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told Motherboard in a phone call.

This type of hacking has become somewhat of a commonplace in the modern world. Australia’s Taskforce Argos hacked US computers during their investigation into The Love Zone. And after December 1, 2017, the changes to Rule 41 could make this far worse.

On November 21, The DoJ published a blog post referencing said Rule 41 changes. The assistant attorney general titled the post “Ensuring Tech-Savvy Criminals Do Not Have Immunity From Investigation.” And it explained the motivation behind the changes planned. We pointed out that the FBI’s mass-hacking would be completely legal post-change.

Motherboard pointed out:

As far as is publicly known, these mass hacking techniques have been limited to child pornography investigations. But with the changes to Rule 41, there is a chance US authorities will expand their use to other crimes too.

The full transcript is on DocumentCloud, thanks to Joseph Cox. Link.

6 comments

  1. The statistics cited in the court filing appear to be completely reasonable and accurate, and if so, they spell GOOD NEWS:

    1) Of the 100K targets, most users did not take the FBI’s “bait”; less than 10% of IP addresses were unmasked.

    2) BUT, of the 10K IP addresses unmasked, most appear to be DEAD ENDS, no doubt anonymous public Wi-Fi addresses.

    3) BUT, of those 15% or so IP addresses that led to someone’s residence, LESS than 20% have resulted in an arrest, which means that most would-be arrestees either fled and/or simply refused to speak with the FBI, say, by exercising their 5th Amendment rights!!

    And, SO, we are left with 214 arrests out of 100,000 potential offenders/targets. Already, the FBI is batting well under 1%!! And, of those 214 arrests, how many have or will result in convictions? And, of those, how many convictions will be upheld on appeal? And, of those, how many will spend any significant amount of time in jail?! Practically, the FBI is now down to 0.1%; money well spent no doubt!!!

    So, good news, bad news, but from the vantage point of privacy, mostly good news!!

    NO Java Script and anonymous public Wi-Fi using Tails with the highest security settings available within the Tor Browser, and likely, the FBI will not be able to track you! But, throw in a hardware encrypted USB drive for good measure with TrueCrypt on the backend.

  2. Yeah, how many of those 214 who got busted were, in fact, innocent? All that it takes to have your door busted down is being a victim of a botnet, or a neighborhood kid who is pissed-off at you, or a more elaborate conspiracy by somebody who hates you, and/or an FBI agent(s) who are willing to lie and/or deceive you!!

    I’ve cracked into other people’s routers before. It’s easy. Most use shitty passwords. I haven’t downloaded CP but I have done other things.

  3. There’s a new JavaScript exploit in town! Upgrade immediately!!! Disable JavaScript and use Tails!!!!

    • Don't get fucked!

      That exploit can be detected and blocked by Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit. Perhaps this tool is a good scanning tool for Darknet sites.

  4. Of course might makes right, and they see computers as a weakness because thy are a big fat pig who wishes to feed on them. The decay and rot flows forth from Washington D.C. as a flower flows to a Bee hive.

    They corrupt any advancement and tailor the growth to their “ideas” and “desires”.

    It is because America does not fear China nor Russia. The weasel Kissinger “Lets make a Deal” (Trump motto?) sold out Taiwan to China for opening up Chinese slave labor to Zionist corporations which set in motion all corporations in USA, Japan, Taiwan offshoring to Chinese slave labor. Arbitraging the deals making huge sums of money? Sound familiar?

  5. same do russians. crusaders. crusading will end.

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