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In the last category, few statutes have more potential than the ECPA. Patrick Leahy noted in 2013 was "no longer suited" to contemporary threats—courts have turned to a technologically unwieldy metaphor of "flight" to determine which interceptions occur “contemporaneously” with a message’s transmission and thus are covered by the statute.

ECPA was passed in 1986 as an amendment to the federal Wiretap Act, and, among other things, generally forbids the interception of electronic communications without the consent of a party to that communication. This definitional jig has meant webcam hacking victims are uncovered, with courts reluctant to take the sensible step of including webcam RAT spying under the act’s auspices.

(A related suit alleging RAT-enabled interception of privileged and confidential attorney work product is unfolding in Georgia.)* * *Another law integral to electronic privacy is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), and, like ECPA, RATs were not considered when it was written.

The CFAA was initially passed, as the story goes, in 1983 when Ronald Reagan saw the hacking film Of particular importance here is Section 1030(g), the act’s private right of action.

While cautious browsing can make a difference when it comes to protecting yourself, for ratting victims, U. law, late as usual to the party, is lacking.* * *Despite repeated violations of privacy via webcam hacking, legal protections against RATs in the United States leave many behind.

Theoretically available state-level protections vary widely from place to place, and federal law, as a privacy backstop, is inadequate.

Anyone with or near a computer and its webcam is potentially at risk.Though the CFAA is foremost a criminal statute, meaning that prosecutors would have the power to decide when it is used, 1030(g) allows a private party to sue in a civil rather than a criminal proceeding, one that might conceivably offer refuge to victims of ratters.But civil suits aren’t a straightforward course of action for victims either.The laptop, it turned out, had been stolen before she bought it, and it came equipped with a Remote Access Tool, or RAT.RATs are software that allow a third party to spy on a computer user from afar, whether rifling through messages and browsing activity, photographing the computer screen, or in many cases hijacking the webcam and taking photographs of whomever is on the other side.On a constitutional and procedural level, we should require that law enforcement hacking include automatic transparency, ban government webcam hacking, and be exacting in applying the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirements.

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