The FBI’s bespoke surveillance malware — called Computer and IP Address Verifier (CIPAV) — is designed to track criminal suspects by logging their IP address, MAC address, computer programs running, operating system details, browser details and other identifying computer information.
As far as spyware goes, it’s unusually circumscribed — unlike consumer keylogging and social media snooping surveillance tools, CIPAV isn’t able to spy on the entire computer at will, just a narrow list of identifiers. That means it’s a weirdly weak invader, but that’s a deliberate, built-in privacy protection, a way to keep the FBI’s spyware ostensibly legal.
Despite limitations, the FBI’s spyware capabilities are hugely powerful. As the Washington Post pointed out:
The most powerful FBI surveillance software can covertly download files, photographs and stored emails, or even gather real-time images by activating cameras connected to computers, say court documents and people familiar with this technology.
Yet there’s been zilch in the news about this government malware since 2013.