Agency has record of targeting political activists
Prior to the decision, Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure authorized search and seizure by law enforcement only within their own jurisdiction. Approved amendments to the code now permit the FBI and others to hack into computers and seize data, even if that computer’s actual location “has been concealed through technical means” such as Tor, software that enables anonymous communication over the internet.
“As it stands, the proposed amendment allows the FBI to use a wide array of invasive (and potentially destructive) hacking techniques where it may not be necessary to do so, against a broad pool of potential targets that could be located virtually anywhere,” Ahmed Ghappour wrote for Just Security on September 16, 2014.
In the summer of 2015, the FBI used its network investigative technique (NIT) hacking tool to gain control of an alleged child pornography bulletin board, Playpen, operating on the so-called dark web.
An FBI complaint described the site as “the largest remaining known child pornography hidden service in the world.” After the FBI seized the server running the site in Lenior, North Carolina, it ran the site from its own servers in Newington, Virginia, and used NIT to infect around 1,300 computers.
NIT forces a computer to perform a number of tasks, including covertly uploading files, emails, photographs, and other data. It can even activate a computer’s microphone and camera.