German government admits using Trojan to spy on private computers

CCC logo

CCC logo

The local government of at least one German federal state has admitted using specially designed computer software to spy on citizens, after a hacker group revealed the existence of the software. On Saturday, the German Chaos Computer Club (CCC), one of the world’s most reputable ‘white hat’ hacker groups, said that German authorities regularly employ the so-called ‘Bundestrojaner’ (‘Federal Trojan’) virus in order to spy on the users of targeted computers. Club member Frank Rieger told German newsmedia that the virus, which was revealed to the Club via an anonymous tipster, was developed by German police experts, and is used by government agents it to intercept electronic information during investigations. The Trojan is reportedly capable of surreptitiously taking screenshots of infected computers, keylogging, recording Skype conversations, and taking control of networked webcams or microphones, thus permitting physical eavesdropping of a person’s home or workplace. In doing so, the Trojan would appear to facilitate warrantless communications interception that exceeds legal limits set under German law. Moreover, according to CCC, the virus acts as a backdoor to infected systems, thus allowing the uploading and execution of unauthorized programs, and potentially may even facilitate the planting of incriminating evidence on targeted computers. Initially, German government officials denied the CCC’s allegations; on Monday, however, officials in the southern German state of Bavaria confirmed that local police forces have been using the Bundestrojaner virus since at least 2009. However, Bavarian Interior Minister, Joachim Herrmann, insisted that the interception capabilities offered to government authorities by the virus were well within German legal parameters. But Steffen Seibert, who speaks on behalf of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said that the Chancellery is concerned and that the CCC’s allegations would be investigated.


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