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New ruling says FBI needs warrant to hack a suspect

The FBI can no longer hack a suspect’s computer to infect it with spying malware without a warrant, a federal judge in Texas ruled. 

Following the child pornography case involving Jeffrey Torres’ activity on dark web child porn site Playpen, US District Judge David Ezra has ruled that secretly collecting information from a computer is still a search under the Fourth Amendment, thus requiring a warrant.

“The Network Investigative Technique (NIT) placed code on Mr Torres’ computer without his permission, causing it to transmit his IP address and other identifying data to the government. That Mr Torres did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his IP address is of no import. This was unquestionably a ‘search’ for Fourth Amendment purposes.”

The FBI took over Playpen for two weeks in 2015 and used it to infect visitors with malware that would reveal their IP address. After his personal computer was hacked by the FBI, Torres filed a complaint to contain the evidence which, in his opinion, had been collected in “an ‘unlawful’ search.”

A judge in Virginia had previously ruled a warrant is not necessary in such situations, so it is now up to the US Congress to clarify the situation and make a decision that applies across the country.

About the author


From a young age, Luana knew she wanted to become a writer. After having addressed topics such as NFC, startups, and tech innovation, she has now shifted focus to internet security, with a keen interest in smart homes and IoT threats. Luana is a supporter of women in tech and has a passion for entrepreneurship, technology, and startup culture.

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  • This new ruling of FBI should have warrant to hack a suspect is totally reasonable by looking at it from positive point of view. Everyone have a right to their privacy while using digital stuffs. Again, it is also complex thing because, people do take this route to do illegal things, on dark web.

    From drug dealings to this child pornography, everything is linked under dark-web. So, we cannot judge whether the decision made on having a warrant to hack a suspect is totally right or not, as some normal users also like to surf a dark web for a while just to take an experience of browsing through it, so for those type of people it will not be good if their computers get hacked or get spied without their knowledge. No doubt, it’s really a good decision to keep an eye on the visitors of the website like Playpen, as surfing to look for this website is definitely not something usual.