New powers for police to hack into UK computers

Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act flaunts its ugly head

Entry into UK homes

Police in the UK will be allowed to hack into personal computers without a court order after being controversially granted permission by the Home Office.

The practice has reportedly already been quietly adopted over the UK, using technology to search computers of those suspected of cyber-crime and paedophilia.

Hacking into computers is more normally the domain of the cyber-criminal, and the police insist that the practice needs to be adopted in order to deal with the hi-tech crime being perpetrated.

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A chief constable must currently okay the use of hacking on a case by case basis, but inevitably human rights and privacy groups are up in arms about the news that the power is being broadened.

Rifling through people's paperwork

"This is no different from breaking down someone's door, rifling through their paperwork and seizing their computer hard drive," Liberty's high profile director Shami Chakrabati told The Independent.

The police have confirmed that they have carried out 194 hacking operations in 2007 and 2008: 133 in private homes, 37 in offices and 24 in hotels.

"The police service in the United Kingdom will aggressively pursue serious and organised criminality, including where that takes the modern forms of hi-tech crime," said a spokesperson for the police.