Police Across Britain Prepare For Remote Searching of Home PCs

Dennis Faas's picture

The Home Office in the UK has reportedly adopted a new plan to allow police across Britain to routinely hack into people's personal computers without a warrant, allowing police or MI5 officers to covertly examine the hard drive of someone's PC at his home, office or hotel room -- all from a remote location.

The pronouncement comes after a decision by the European Union's council of ministers in Brussels expanding the implementation of a statute permitting warrant-less surveillance of private property. Material gathered by "remote searching" includes the content of all emails, Internet browsing history and instant messaging.

Civil liberty groups and opposition MPs describe the hacking as a sinister extension of the surveillance state which "drives a coach and horses" through privacy laws. (Source: timesonline.co.uk)

French, German and other EU forces will be allowed to ask British officers to hack into someone's UK computer and pass on any information gathered.

Under the plan, a remote search can be granted if a senior officer says he "believes" that it is "proportionate" and necessary to prevent or detect "serious crime," which is defined as any offense punishable by a jail sentence of more than three years.

Given this, authorities would be able to break into a suspect's home or office and insert a key-logging device into an individual's computer that could collect, and if necessary, transmit the suspect's keystrokes. Key-logging hardware, by the way, is very easy to detect.

Authorities could also send an email to a suspect containing a virus that, if opened, would covertly install the remote search facility. Another option might be to park outside a suspect's home and hack into their computer through a wireless network.

Germany's highest court has ruled that spying on personal computers violates privacy, but governments across Europe are under pressure to help their security services fight terrorism and organized crime. (Source: bbc.co.uk)

Broadening such intrusive surveillance powers should be regulated. Furthermore, powers that astringent should not be granted based on an officer's "belief," unless it's backed by verifiable suspicion or evidence. Police say that such methods are necessary to investigate suspects who use cyberspace to carry out crimes, including pedophiles, Internet fraudsters, identity thieves, and terrorists.

Exercising such intrusive power raises serious privacy issues and there must be safeguards in place to prevent abuse. It's becoming painfully evident that there is a fuzzy line between 'preventing crimes and acts of terrorism' and paranoia. One has to wonder why that type of intrusion is even necessary when Britain plans to monitor a super-database of every one of its citizens. (Source: infopackets.com)

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