UK to adopt Euro police hacking scheme

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   Jan 6, 2009

Remote search and cyber patrol plans approved.

The UK Home Office has signed up to a European initiative, proposed in November, to grant police forces greater powers to hack into computers and monitor internet traffic in search of incriminating evidence.

The UK police already admits to engaging in cyber-espionage on occasion, in some cases with no requirement for a warrant under existing legislation, but the new powers will give them significantly more opportunities to hone their hacking skills, worrying some human rights watchdogs.

The scheme is designed to combat serious and organised criminals using computers and the web as a data-storage and communication medium, but should also improve police powers to bring cybercriminals, whose crimes take place entirely in the online world, to justice. However, the likelihood that law enforcement organisations will create and implement their own keyloggers, screengrabbers and other spyware utilities presents difficulties for security firms, many of whom have openly stated that they will not be whitelisting or otherwise ignoring any suspect samples originating from police forces.

The European proposals also encourage data sharing between police forces, which some privacy advocates suspect may grant foreign police rights to hack into system based in the UK and vice versa, while far greater monitoring of the internet as a whole will also become possible.

Reports of the announcement can be found at ZDNet here, VNUnet here or the BBC here, with typically strident comment from Sophos' Graham Cluley here.

Posted on 06 January 2009 by Virus Bulletin

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