The FBI is going to new lengths to be sure it can eavesdrop on high-tech communications, secretly building "Magic Lantern" software to monitor computer use [...] At a conference Nov. 6 in Tucson, Ariz. – and in a 32-page follow-up letter sent about two weeks ago – the FBI told leading telecommunications officials that increasing use of Internet-style data technology to transmit voice calls is frustrating FBI wiretap efforts. [...] The FBI added that its research is "always mindful of constitutional, privacy and commercial equities," and that its use of new technology can be challenged in court and in Congress. [...] Magic Lantern could be installed over the Internet by tricking a person into double-clicking an e-mail attachment or by exploiting some of the same weaknesses in popular commercial software that allow hackers to break into computers. It's unclear whether Magic Lantern would transmit keystrokes it records back to the FBI over the Internet or store the information to be seized later in a raid.
OK, I promise not to laugh at the concept that the FBI is "always mindful of constitutional, privacy and commercial equities." After all, "always mindful" doesn't remotely mean "actually pretends to follow the law", now does it? (Oops. Laughing. So sorry.)
So let me just get this straight: the FBI would essentially infect your computer with an "Enhanced Carnivore" virus anytime they wanted to see what you were doing. And then they're going to try to prosecute hackers for terrorism under the USA Constitution-Demolition Act -- er, pardon, the USA Patriot Act -- for doing precisely the same thing. Right. (To be sure, there are all sorts of things that are legal for law enforcement to do that ordinary shmoes can't. I suppose that's not precisely the objectionable part, is it?)
Of course, what's going to happen is that hackers will figure out what sorts of possible technology the government is using -- despite their vast resources, the government sometimes has a curious lack of technical imagination, so it may not be that hard -- and then they'll make sure to write malicious viruses using that same technology. Antivirus software companies will be forced to write software that blocks those viruses, thereby disabling the government's software. (And I would imagine that it would be vitally important for people engaged in actual nefarious activities to have up-to-date antivirus software. Really, I'm serious there; you wouldn't want to accidentally send a cohort in crime an encrypted virus. After all, secure backups are probably one thing you DON'T want to have if you're engaged in crime; one version would be bad enough.)
Watching the hackers and government engage in this particular merry chase could be vastly amusing, as long as you don't actually get hit by either the anti-Constitutional -- pardon, of course I meant pro-government -- or hackers' viruses. Could be an astonishing amount of ancillary damage from both. (And can you just imagine the flood of stuff going to the FBI if Magic Lantern actually does act like a virus and gets out "into the wild", as it were? Talk about worse than useless ...)
12/19/2001: vive la france
12/19/2001: princess, redux
12/19/2001: yemen and rumsfeld
12/18/2001: you're NOT in the army now
12/18/2001: interesting donation
12/18/2001: shame on winn dixie, indeed
12/18/2001: saudi princess
12/17/2001: new resolve
12/17/2001: a victim of the attack ... yeah, right
12/17/2001: polluters ho!