FBI Can Use Suspects' Laptop Cameras— With the Light Off

Bureau develops malware for targets' computers

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 7, 2013 2:45 PM CST

(Newser) – If the FBI wants dirt on a suspect, agents are capable of turning on his laptop's webcam—without him knowing. The light won't go on, Gizmodo reports, based on a Washington Post piece. The technique, available to the bureau for years, is mostly used to fight terror or other very serious crime, a former FBI official tells the Post, which offers more details on the bureau's high-tech strategies.

In the case of "Mo," who was behind multiple bomb threats last year, the FBI created surveillance malware to install via the suspect's Yahoo email account. These programs can download materials from users' computers or turn on their webcams, the Post reports. In Mo's case, a magistrate approved the use of the software; courts have also struck down such plans, however. Despite the use of warrants, observers have raised constitutional concerns. "We have transitioned into a world where law enforcement is hacking into people’s computers, and we have never had public debate," says an ACLU rep.

Just because the light's off doesn't mean the FBI's not using it.
Just because the light's off doesn't mean the FBI's not using it.   (Shutterstock)
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