Forwarded by: Patrick Oonk <patrickat_private> http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20010830/3589336s.htm Friday, in a New Jersey courtroom, the FBI is scheduled to deliver a secret report detailing a new way it uses to spy on American citizens behind their backs. The dispute is technical, involving a way to track a computer's every keystroke. The defendant is unsympathetic, the son of a convicted Philadelphia mob boss who stands accused of running a loan-sharking and gambling business. But a decision in favor of the FBI's secrecy stance would have far-reaching consequences -- not only putting regular users' Internet privacy at risk, but also setting a precedent that could allow the FBI to act with impunity in future disputes over newly devised surveillance methods. The issue arose after agents, armed with a judge's OK, installed the FBI's new keystroke-monitoring device on the computer of Nicodemo S. Scarfo Jr., thereby obtaining the password needed to track information on gambling and loan operations. Now Scarfo's lawyers contend that because the technology resembles a wiretap, Scarfo's constitutional rights were violated by the FBI's failure to obtain the more strictly regulated judicial review that wiretaps require. Are they right? No one knows. The FBI is hiding behind a claim of national security and refusing to release information showing how its keystroke tracker works. Instead, the agency will reveal its new toy only to the judge presiding over the trial. He will then approve a summary for use by the defense, which will also be ordered to keep that document secret. It is possible, even likely, that there is nothing threatening about the FBI's new ''key logger'' technology. Similar hardware and software tools are publicly available and have been used openly by the FBI in other cases. But that can't be determined without a techno-savvy outside review with full access to the device. The FBI opposes any such review, whether by independent experts or the defense in this case, claiming that public knowledge of the device would allow criminals to adapt their behavior. That's one cost of fighting crime in an open society. What's more, an outside review could benefit the FBI, too. Last year, outsiders reviewed the FBI's e-mail-snooper Carnivore and found flaws that hindered the program's use. The FBI's record on computer-related privacy issues leaves little reason to believe that the agency can make reasonable choices without scrutiny. In 1994, the FBI lobbied to have a backdoor installed in every computer in the nation, to give agents automatic access once they got a judge's permission. The plan was dropped only after the National Academy of Sciences determined it would make all computers more vulnerable to hackers. Last year, the FBI misled Congress and the public about the reliability and security of Carnivore, in an effort to head off outside review. The FBI is right to use advanced technology to fight sophisticated criminals. But the FBI is wrong to insist that it should decide on its own how to move forward in a way that protects the public's privacy rights.Today's debate: Privacy rights Use of keystroke technology to nab suspect raises privacy issues. -- Patrick Oonk - PO1-6BONE - E: patrickat_private - www.pine.nl/~patrick Pine Internet - PAT31337-RIPE - Hushmail: p.oonkat_private T: +31-70-3111010 - F: +31-70-3111011 - http://security.nl PGPID 155C3934 fp DD29 1787 8F49 51B8 4FDF 2F64 A65C 42AE 155C 3934 Excuse of the day: High nuclear activity in your area. - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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