Some of our worst digital surveillance horrors have turned true. A Washington Post report claims that FBI can remotely turn on laptop’s cameras without the indicator light, a move which is seen as highly intrusive by many.
This has been revealed by the court documents submitted by FBI in a specific case. Apparently, the agency had been trying to track down an individual who goes by the online nick ‘Mo.’ Mo allegedly made many serious bomb threats which triggered alarm among the authorities.
FBI tried to track him down but Mo apparently covered his tracks really well. After repeated failures, an elite team of FBI hackers brought together a software which could be deployed to Mo’s machine once he logs on to his Yahoo account. The software could then track down the websites he visited as well as other information which may hint at his location.
Through this software, the agency is apparently able to not only download and install malware on the targeted machine, it can also turn on its camera if it’s a laptop. The worst of it is that the camera is turned on without the indicator lights, so that the user has absolutely no clue the camera is on and recording. FBI has had this technology for many years now and the agency claims that it puts it to use only in the most serious terrorism-related cases.
In many cases, judges have rejected FBI‘s request for a warrant to use the said software, objecting that it was a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. The problem with the deployment of such software is that it often ends up gathering data on such people who are not directly involved in any crimes. Nonetheless, the agency has a knack of finding such judges who would conform to its requests, and nearly always has gotten the warrant by reapplying for it elsewhere.
Despite huge resources consumed, cutsomized software created and deployed, and Google requested for details of Mo’s Gmail account, FBI has been unable to track down the individual. So far, the agency’s information and estimates about him are based entirely on estimates. The surveillance software deployed to Mo’s email ID didn’t work as planned, FBI claimed, and finally pegged Mo’s location as Tehran, though with little evidence to conclusively support this.
In all, the agency created and deployed such software which was highly intrusive and possibly violated the Fourth Amendmend. Some judges objected to it but others deemed it fit, only reinforcing the creation of this Orwellian horror. The most interesting part of the whole story is that despite such legal and constitutional circumventions, the agency is still clueless about the suspect.
Source: Washington Post