Are you not updating your critical software? The FBI could do it just for you.

The FBI has begun silent access to hundreds of American computers that have been hacked through Microsoft’s Exchange email program, removing malicious code that the hackers left behind.

The operation, which the Justice Department approved with an arrest warrant on Tuesday, underscores the severity of the Exchange vulnerability, which has allowed dozens of hackers to break into organizations since the beginning of the year.

However, there is also cause for concern over the FBI’s jurisdiction in resolving cyberattacks against Americans.

In some key cases against botnets – huge armies of hacked computers that a hacker directs as a group, often as part of criminal operations – the FBI will hack victims’ computers to remove the code that makes them unwilling to perpetrate them. However, the agency’s reaction to the Exchange hack is an example of a far rarer phenomenon: the active removal of malicious code from …



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