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Report shows how government hacking may be challenged

North Carolina residents may have heard that federal agents are more and more spying on computer users, remotely and secretly, so that they can obtain evidence. However, a report that was released on March 30 offers ways in which this surveillance activity can be challenged.

Attorneys are fighting to keep the evidence that is obtained from being used in court cases. A change to federal criminal procedures has resulted in federal agents only needing a single warrant to remotely search thousands of computers, and they do not need to identify whose information they are capturing or where they are. The report, issued by the ACLU and two other groups, is meant to arm attorneys with the information they need to defend their clients. It also gives details about how criminal defense attorneys can identify government malware in their cases, and then summarizes the most effective and important constitutional and procedural arguments they can employ if a law enforcement official used hacking to gather evidence.

One notable example of the government hacking campaign took place in 2016 when federal agents seized servers who were operating a website suspected of hosting child pornography. However, instead of closing the site down, they allowed it to continue. Then, with the use of a single warrant, the agents hacked into roughly 9,000 devices of those who visited the sites, and charged hundreds of suspects.

Those who believe that they have been victims of secret malware attacks by the government might want to speak with a criminal defense attorney for advice. The attorney could see if the evidence used in the case was obtained illegally, which could lead to a judge throwing out the case.

Source: EFF, "New Report Aims to Help Criminal Defense Attorneys Challenge Secretive Government Hacking", Karen Gullo, March 30, 2017

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