Privacy Advocates Fighting Rule to Allow Mass U.S. Hacking

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Privacy advocates in Congress are trying to stop a new rule from taking effect Dec. 1 that would allow federal agents armed with a single search warrant to hack millions of Americans’ computers at once, USA Today reports. “It’s more government surveillance,” said Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), a former criminal court judge and prosecutor who is leading bipartisan efforts with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) to stop the rule change. “It’s disturbing.” Despite congressional concern about criminals and rogue nations hacking everything from the Democratic National Committee to Yahoo, Congress has not held a hearing on the potential mass hacking ofAmericans by U.S. government agents.

The Justice Department says the rule is necessary to keep pace with changes in the technology used by criminals, particularly “botnets. They are clusters of computers infected by malware that can be controlled remotely and used by hackers to steal financial data. Opponents of the new rule say it goes too far, and they’ve got backing from big tech companies that want it stopped. They are pushing to enact the Stopping Mass Hacking Act, a bipartisan bill that would bar the change in federal criminal procedures from taking effect. Congress is scheduled to return from recess on Nov. 15 for about four weeks.

“We’re really up against the clock,” said Wyden, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “If Congress does what it does best and does nothing, then a lot of people are going to have to explain to their constituents why they let this happen without even a debate.” The new rule will automatically take effect Dec. 1 unless Congress stops it.

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