The FBI is said to have hacked thousands of computers around the world, and it did all of this based on just one warrant. And some deem the warrant to be illegal. According to one of the defendants in the case, Colin Fieman, there has never been a case where they have seen a wide ranging warrant as that which was used by the FBI in this case.
However, reports indicate that as part of the operation, they also hacked some computers which were in Australia. This also highlighted the problems and loopholes that the law enforcement agencies have been using to get into some computers which are all outside their jurisdiction, and in all of this they are using malware.
The case was code named at the time, Operation Pacifier and it was going around the investigation which was undertaken by the FBI against one of the biggest ever dark website child pornography sites. The website was called Playpen. The FBI seized the website back in 2”15, and rather than shut it down, they decided to let it run from one of their government servers so that they could deploy one network investigative technique. This is one piece of malware that the agency used so that they could identify the visitors.
The malware which was used by the agency was making use of the Tor Browser exploit. Through this they managed to grab one of the suspected Playpen’s user IP address, the MAC address and various other technical information needed. They also obtained about 1,000 US IP addresses and they managed to distribute the information which they got to other agencies. They spread information of the suspects to their foreign partner agencies.
The Department of Justice has been criticized lately for using a warrant that had no jurisdiction beyond the place were it was issued. The court filings which were filed against the FBI showed that at least fourteen court decisions show that the warrant was not properly issued as per the Rules of Federal Criminal Procedure.
The main problem is that the judge who was responsible for issuing the warrant, Magistrate Judge Theresa C. Buchanan in the Eastern District of Virginia, had no power to issue a warrant that was beyond her own district. As a result, four courts have already decided to throw out the cases which have evidence obtained by the malware.
However, there is a new law change which is expected to come into effect by December 1, which will be able to give judges the same power as that encompassed by the warrant used in the Playpen case.