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Rule 41 makes it easier for feds to hack computers

Having the data on your computer or the information on your personal accounts hacked can lead to a whole host of problems. But while it is not surprising to learn about unscrupulous parties who hack for purposes of mischief or personal gain, it is disconcerting to learn that agencies in the federal government now have more power than ever to hack the digital information of U.S. citizens.

Previously, if FBI agents believed they have cause to hack into an individual's or organization's computers, they would need to get a warrant from a judge who works in the same judicial district in which the computers in question reside. The problem for federal agents is that often they want to search a vast number of computers spread across the country as part of the same investigation. This means securing scores of warrants.

However, thanks to Rule 41, which was scheduled to take effect on December 1, a single warrant from a single judge can be applied to search all the computers that are allegedly part of the investigation.

And it does not take a giant leap in speculation to understand why this is a threat to our privacy. Because of the interconnectivity of the Internet, a single warrant could open a veritable Pandora's box of hacking. And according to privacy advocates, the government could legally go through your personal information without you even knowing it.

Clearly, Rule 41 signifies the beginning of a frightening new era of government surveillance. And while we don't presently know the extent to which these powers will be used, or possibly abused, it is important to understand that there will always be some legal limitations placed on the government's search and seizure practices.

If you are facing federal charges based on evidence that was obtained by hacking your computer system, it is imperative that you have knowledgeable legal representation. As such, you may want to get in touch with an attorney who is well-versed in federal law and the workings of the federal judicial system.

Source: USA Today, "Congress allows rule permitting mass hacking by government to take effect," Erin Kelly, Nov. 30, 2016

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Leo V. Duval Attorney At Law

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