The FBI is developing software capable of inserting a virus onto a computer and obtaining encryption keys. Using this software, known as ?Magic Lantern,? agents can read data that has been scrambled, a tactic that is employed by criminals to hide information and evade law enforcement. The best snooping technology that the FBI currently uses, the controversial software called Carnivore, has been useless against suspects who encrypt their files.

Magic Lantern is capable of capturing keystrokes typed on a computer. By tracking exactly what a suspect types, critical encryption key information can be gathered, and then transmitted back to the FBI, where it can be decoded. The virus can be sent to the suspect on e-mail. The FBI can also physically break into a computer to insert Magic Lantern.

Magic Lantern is one of a series of programs being developed for the FBI?s Carnivore project, under the umbrella project name of Cyber Knight. The FBI released a series of unclassified documents relating to Carnivore last year in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Most of the information was blacked out. According to an anonymous source, the blacked-out parts of the memo talk about Cyber Knight, which he described as a database that sorts and matches data gathered using various Carnivore-like methods from e-mail, chat rooms, instant messages and Internet phone calls.

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