FBI’s Network Investigative Technique

The term “network investigative technique,” or NIT, has been around for awhile as a catch-all term for the FBI’s digital investigation of non-public information from suspect’s computers.  An FBI affiliate worryingly admitted to Forbes that the government uses a “human wall” to screen collected data to try to protect privacy rights.

This technique is making a big splash recently through “Operation Pacifier.”  Through that operation, the FBI took control of a child porn site operating on Tor and allowed it to run for 13 days. The FBI modified the website’s code so that malware would download to users’ computers and sent their IP addresses, MAC addresses, and active username to the FBI.

A single magistrate judge in Virginia authorized the warrant, yet the operation was global in scope and uncovered approximately 1300 IP addresses. See Joseph Cox, The FBI’s ‘Unprecedented’ Hacking Campaign Targeted Over a Thousand Computers, Motherboard, Jan. 5, 2016.

Most of the warrant has been made public. See United States v. Lorente, No. 15-274, ECF Doc. No. 48-1 (W.D. Wash. Mar. 7, 2016). Defendants have filed motions to dismiss and to suppress, but so far, courts in Wisconsin and Washington have rejected those motions.

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