Everyone considers privacy to be an important quality in life. No one likes to see people peeping in the windows, or that weird kid from next door with his telescope out. Those people seem terrible and obnoxious, but what about the ones you don’t see, the ones you don’t know about? Who has access to your files, what do they know, and will you need data recovery or computer repair? The question on everyone’s mind is, “How much access does the FBI have to your computer?”
The FBI has always been able to intercept info and tap phone lines, but in October of 2001 George Bush signed the Patriot Act allowing the U.S. Government to access any kind of information about any person, just in case they might be a terrorist or linked to a terrorist. This means calls, emails, texts, and even your financial records, without “probable cause”.
Probably the most shocking of all, the FBI has unlimited access to your web camera. According to the Washington Post, the FBI can access your camera (through the internet), whenever it likes, “without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording.” So, anyone who has a webcam, if you are reading this, you may be watched by the FBI right at this moment, and you couldn’t tell.
That’s not all. The Washington Post also revealed other FBI techniques that are just as sinister. When tracking a suspect the FBI uses methods such as malicious software to track your activity on the web, your e-mail, and other similar information sources. Sometimes that malicious software takes a bite of your computer. Then it needs data recovery and computer repair. The FBI usually calls these terrible tools “network investigative techniques”. Some of the more powerful entities have the ability to download files, e-mails, documents, pictures, and more, without the user ever knowing. The report was rather extensive and a bit unnerving to see what lengths the FBI goes to find a suspect. They don’t call them the Federal Bureau of Investigation for nothing.
Generally the FBI generates easy phishing tricks, which is pretty common with scammers. Other U.S. diplomats have indicated that such techniques were few and far between, but their abilities, like activating webcams without the indicator light, have been advanced for years. The FBI have begun to push their constitutional boundaries as that take part in this massive unwarranted search and seizure, especially because they have no viable connection to any crime.
What the FBI now does with computers is essentially the same seizing someones entire house and making themselves well aquatinted with everything in it, even if they aren’t suspected of any crime. Those computer owners will probably need data recovery. In a recent investigation of “Mo”, a dark haired man with a foreign accent, federal magistrates approved a special case allowing the FBI to infiltrate “Mo’s” computer by less than legal means. The got special permission because of the nature of the case. Fortunately, a level headed magistrate denied an FBI request to send such software to another suspect in a separate investigation. The magistrate said that it was “extremely intrusive”, and violated their fourth amendment rights.
A law professor even has some pointed things to say. Laura K. Donohue of Georgetown University review three cases of the FBI’s surveillance software, and their rulings. She said, “You can’t just go on a fishing expedition.” She followed up other statements by concluding, “There needs to be a nexus between the crime being alleged and the material to be seized. What they are doing here, though, is collecting everything.”
Marcus Thomas, former assistant director of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division, indicated that information collecting is more difficult than before because of the progress of technology. Now computers can hide their location, identity, and other details through software. Thomas went on to say, “Because of encryption and because targets are increasingly using mobile devices, law enforcement is realizing that more and more they’re going to have to be on the device — or in the cloud,” Thomas said, referring to remote storage services. “There’s the realization out there that they’re going to have to use these types of tools more and more.” These aren’t like data recovery tools, these are data snatching tools.
In 2006 ABC News reported that the FBI can listen to everything you say through your cell phone, even when it is turned off. They said that there was a court ruling about a “roving bug”. This bug gives the FBI the ability to activate a cell phone from a remote location, and transmit audio from its microphone to an FBI listening post. The only way to stop this, is to remove the battery. All the cell phone users with built in batteries should know what that means.
James Atkinson, a security constant told ABC News, “The FBI can access cell phones and modify them remotely without ever having to physically handle them.” Similar to the FBI the NSA has modified the Android OS code and put in their own code. That means the can turn on the microphone, camera, or GPS tracker at any time. They could even corrupt them so that you need mobile computer repair.
These things are only what we know about the FBI. Usually the government is like an iceberg; 90% of it is below the surface where you can’t see. So, “How much access does the FBI have to your computer?” Pretty much as much as it wants, by whatever means it deems necessary.
by David Molnar