Monday, December 17, 2001

The FBI's Magic Lantern

I can't imagine why the FBI has publicly revealed this, but they are developing a trojan-horse-like program with which they can "infect" a computer they suspect is being used for illegal purposes. This program will allow them to monitor communications and computer usage.

The big deal with this one is that they don't have to achieve physical access to the computer they want to monitor. They can e-mail it to you, just like the authors of "ILOVEYOU" and "nimdA" did. Think of it as slipping your landlord a fifty to let the FBI into your apartment.

Oh, no, the FBI would never abuse this tool. ``Like all technology projects or tools deployed by the FBI it would be used pursuant to the appropriate legal process.''

Well, fine, but the above statement was delivered as a response to the question "Would it require a court order to use it?" Response it may be, but it ain't an answer.

This also puts the anti-virus companies in a difficult position. Such a trojan clearly falls into the realm of destructive and invasive programs that anti-virus software is designed to disable. Would an existing product catch it? Do the anti-virus companies have an obligation to update their product so that it will? Can the FBI, in the name of the War Effort, forbid the companies from doing this?

Will the FBI be able to preserve the secret of their "back-door"? Will other hackers be able to discover and exploit it? And if they do, will the FBI insist that this door be left open regardless?

Am I too paranoid? Is there such a thing as "too paranoid"?

Have I used too many question marks in this comment?

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