Law enforcement agencies, especially the FBI, have been using hacking techniques to conduct remote searches of suspects’ computers for many years. Those techniques typically involve the deployment of custom malware, through things such as targeted phishing emails and the use of an exploit for a vulnerability. These methods have been used in many cases over the years, and law enforcement officials say they are vital to the investigation of crimes in today’s environment.
But legal experts say that there is no explicit permission in United States law for this kind of investigative technique.
“The SCOTUS definitely hasn’t said government hacking is legal. There’s nothing remotely approaching a single warrant that allows the general hacking of people in many places,” Andrew Crocker, a staff attorney at the EFF, said. “That’s anathema to the Fourth Amendment.”