It’s very easy to become alarmed by some of the scaremongering stories which appear in certain sections of the UK press when it comes to technology and privacy, but this one – if abused – could be pretty serious indeed.
According to The Times, The Home Office has developed plans to give the UK police force the power to remotely hack into the personal computer of anyone it suspects might be involved with something dodgy — you know, terrorism, paedophilia, drug trafficking, that kind of thing — without a warrant, with the additional joyous notion that police forces from across the European Union can request information on any British Citizen.
Yes, it does all sound a bit Daily Mail, but unsurprisingly it’s raised the hackles of the human rights group Liberty, which has said that it will mount a legal challenge.
“The public will want this to be controlled by new legislation and judicial authorisation. Without those safeguards it’s a devastating blow to any notion of personal privacy,” said Liberty’s director, Shami Chakrabarti.
“It’s like giving police the power to do a Damian Green every day but to do it without anyone even knowing you were doing it,” she continued.
What methods might MI5, the police, or other authorities use? According to a researcher at Cambridge University’s computer lab, Richard Clayton, these searches have actually been possible since 1994, though they’re rare, and could involve officials breaking into a suspect’s home or office and planting a keylogging device to collect and transmit user data, sending spyware/malware via an email message in the hope that the suspect would be dim-witted enough to open it, or hacking into the wireless network.
The Home Office is said to be working with other EU states to develop the proposals, so you’re probably safe from Big Brother at the moment (you’ve only got to worry about criminals – phew!)
However, much as I don’t condone serious illegal activity (I’m not talking about a few MP3 and DVD rips) it might be worth finding out how to shore up your home computer and network if you don’t want anyone snooping around. With the appalling data security record of many UK authorities, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine sniffed data falling into the wrong hands.
Oh, but don’t have nightmares.
(Via The Times)