The U.S. Justice Department is pushing to make it easier for law enforcement to get warrants to hack into the computers of criminal suspects, reports the Wall Street Journal. The move, which would alter federal court rules on search warrants, comes amid an increase in computer crime cases. Investigators say they need more flexibility to get warrants to allow hacking in such cases, especially when multiple computers are involved or the government doesn't know where the suspect's computer is located.
The federal effort is raising questions among technology advocates, who say the government should focus on fixing the holes in computer software that allow hacking instead of exploiting them. Privacy advocates warn that government spyware could end up on innocent people's computers if remote attacks are authorized against equipment whose ownership isn't clear. The government's hacking tools—such as sending an email embedded with code that installs spying software — resemble those used by criminal hackers. The government doesn’t call these methods hacking, preferring terms like “remote access” and “network investigative techniques.”