Are we safer with the FBI accessing our computers without consent?

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This short article by Scott Shackelford, Associate Professor of Business Law and Ethics; Executive Director, Ostrom Workshop; Cybersecurity Program Chair, IU-Bloomington, Indiana University, is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Check out the initial short article.

Its part of a federal government effort to contain the continuing attacks on corporate networks running Microsoft Exchange software, and its an extraordinary intrusion thats raising legal concerns about simply how far the government can go.On April 9, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas approved a search warrant enabling the U.S. Department of Justice to carry out the operation.The software application the FBI is erasing is malicious code set up by hackers to take control of a victims computer system. The FBI, however, was not authorized to remove any other malware that hackers may have set up during the breach or otherwise gain access to the contents of the servers.What makes this case unique is both the scope of the FBIs actions to get rid of the web shells and the unmatched invasion into independently owned computers without the owners authorization. New malware attacks on Microsoft Exchange servers continue to surface, and the FBI is continuing to carry out court-authorized action to get rid of the harmful code.Active defenseThe shift toward a more active U.S. cybersecurity technique started under the Obama administration with the establishment of U.S. Cyber Command in 2010. It permits the FBI to access computer systems outside the jurisdiction of a search warrant.This action highlights the precedent, and power, of courts becoming de facto cybersecurity regulators that can empower the Department of Justice to clean up massive releases of harmful code of the kind seen in the Exchange hack. In 2017, for example, the FBI made use of the expanded Rule 41 to take down a worldwide botnet that harvested victims info and used their computers to send out spam emails.Important legal issues stay unresolved with the FBIs present operation.

The FBI, however, was not licensed to remove any other malware that hackers may have installed throughout the breach or otherwise access the contents of the servers.What makes this case unique is both the scope of the FBIs actions to remove the web shells and the unmatched invasion into independently owned computers without the owners consent. New malware attacks on Microsoft Exchange servers continue to surface, and the FBI is continuing to undertake court-authorized action to remove the harmful code.Active defenseThe shift towards a more active U.S. cybersecurity method began under the Obama administration with the establishment of U.S. Cyber Command in 2010. In 2017, for example, the FBI made usage of the expanded Rule 41 to take down a worldwide botnet that harvested victims details and used their computer systems to send out spam emails.Important legal problems remain unsettled with the FBIs existing operation.