Hackers have long been treated like terrorists by the Justice Department. But now, things have just gotten a whole lot worse for people who make a habit of snooping around computer networks, thanks to Attorney General John Ashcroft.Ashcroft recently released a new version of the "Guidelines for FBI National Security Investigations and Foreign Intelligence Collection." And they are not exactly hacker-friendly, SecurityFocus' Kevin Poulsen observes.
The new guidelines, billed as a response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, permit the Bureau to engage in the "proactive collection of information on threats to the national security," displacing an older policy that obliged the FBI to have a specific investigative purpose before collecting information on individuals or groups.Like the older rules, the new guidelines allow the Attorney General to specify anything as threat to national security at any time. But a few threats are specifically hardcoded into the new rules: terrorism, espionage, sabotage, political assassination, and "foreign computer intrusion."The latter is defined as "the use or attempted use of any cyber-activity or other means by, for, or on behalf of a foreign power to scan, probe, or gain unauthorized access into one or more U.S.-based computers."To date, there has not been a single case of state-sponsored "cyber-terrorism" -- ever. Nor are such attacks very likely, as Jim Lewis, with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted in an article of mine from last year.