Users can either turn to TOR or use virtual private networks (VPNs) for a secure, anonymous web experience. Since neither of the two discloses the user's location, they may become prime targets of the U.S. government's hacking team, all thanks to a proposed amendment to Rule 41 of the U.S. Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
TOR, or The Onion Router, is a web browser that ensures users' location and browsing habits aren't disclosed. While it can be used to prevent websites from learning users' browsing habits or tracking their location, it is also associated with the darker side of the web. VPNs essentially create an encrypted connection over a less secure one.
Once the change â€” proposed by an advisory committee on criminal rules for the Judicial Conference of the United States â€” to Rule 41 has been implemented, the US government will have the right to hack devices and spy on users when "the district where the media or information is located has been concealed through technological means" or the data is "damaged without authorization and are located in five or more districts." All it would need to spy, hack and copy user data is a court order, Electronic Frontier Foundation reported.
It clarified that the amendment puts anybody who chooses to keep the details of their location hidden at risk of being infiltrated, and said the rule would also apply to users who deny apps on their smartphone permission to figure out their current location. Users whose devices were involved in a botnet attack are also at risk. The most concerning aspect to this amendment, as the EFF points out, is that it also applies to people not living in the U.S.
The EFF reported that the U.S. Supreme Court has passed the proposal to Congress, which apparently needs to disavow it by December 1 this year. If it fails to do so, the amendment will make it to the rule, putting at risk users around the world, who despite being innocent could be potentially implicated at the worst and be spied upon or have their data copied at the least.