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Swiss gov 'mulls' spyware to tap VoIP calls

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The Swiss government is "considering" the use of a spyware application called Superintendent Trojan to eavesdrop on IP telephony conversation, Heise Security reports.

Swiss firm ERA IT Solutions said it hopes to supply the Superintendent Trojan only to government agencies, a policy it hopes will leave it off malware blacklists compiled by anti-virus and anti-spyware developers.

Even if we accept ERA's assertion that the use of the technology would be restricted to government agencies, anti-virus firms would be honour bound to blacklist the app if any of their customers complained about it.

As well as allowing VoIP calls to be monitored, the software is surreptitiously turning on the built-in microphones or webcams on target PCs. All this assumes, of course, that the software can be successfully planted in the first place - a tricky proposition without physical access to a PC, as HP leak gum-shoes might attest.

Altogether the plan seems fraught with difficulties, without even considering whether evidence obtained via such covert methods would be legally submittable.

Charles Gudet, the head of the Special Services Department at UVEK (the Swiss government department in charge of telecoms, among other things), told Sonntags Zeitung there's no basis for using such Trojan techniques under federal wiretap laws (such as the Federal Post and Telecommunications Surveillance Act). However, local laws and federal police procedures permit the use of software wiretaps providing surveillance has being authorised by a court. ®

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