Remote Access Tools, Cease and Desist

Matthew Hickey's picture
Police forces across the UK recently carried out an 'intensive period of UK-wide action against cyber crime' under the guide of the National Crime Agency (NCA). A public statement from the NCA concerning the arrest of 57 alleged cyber criminals is available to read here: http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/news/news-listings/560-57-arrested-in-nationwide-cyber-crime-strike-week. I would first like to highlight the great initiative being shown by the NCA in taking steps to deter criminal activity in the UK. However some of the comments made within the statement have implications on our digital freedoms and the rights of the public. 

 

Amongst the arrested are individuals accused of the creation of tools which may have been used in an offense. Software creation for security purposes is often seen as “dual-use”, as a tool designed to protect a network could also be used to access data illegally. The creation of software should not in itself be considered a crime instead the actions of criminals misusing software the focus of police. In addition, a number of people were visited by law enforcement and distributed “cease and desist” orders due to the purchase of remote access tools (RATs). These tools can often be considered an example of such "dual-use" software as although they can be used to spy on a computer, they can also be used for technical support of a family member's computer.

 

There is also a worrying potential of mission creep by police, who have actively engaged with business to provide personalised security reports on vulnerabilities. According to the statement the NCA visited approximately 60 business with information on vulnerabilities within their infrastructure and mitigation advice. When individuals and businesses who are alerted to security holes in their infrastructure address them, everyone wins. However, we must ensure that commercial interest with the police does not encourage aggressive over-enforcement or attacks on software and solution providers already working to prevent abuse in our digital world.

 

Whilst the Pirate Party do not condone nor support criminals who abuse digital systems for fraudulent purposes, we must always ensure that such actions taken by the police are appropriate and do not impact on the digital rights of the public.

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