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Austria OKs terror snooping Trojan plan

Silly idea gains steam

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Austria has become one of the first countries to officially sanction the use of Trojan Horse malware as a tactic for monitoring the PCs of suspected terrorists and criminals.

The measures were reportedly discussed in an Austrian cabinet meeting last week and turned over to a group of legal and technical experts to thrash out the details of the scheme. Pending approval, Austrian law enforcement officers could begin using the tactic as early as next year.

Austrian measures would parallel those under consideration by Germany thereby "facilitating the international sharing of data found in secret online searches", Heise reports.

The policy - announced last week by the Austrian Interior Minister Gunther Plater - is fraught with difficulties, according to security watchers.

"Minister Plater has said that the Trojan malware will only be used against suspected terrorists and serious criminals, and will require a court order. That isn't much protection, and I am extremely concerned about this software falling into the wrong hands," said Geoff Sweeney, CTO of Tier-3, the behavioural software IT security firm.

Sweeney expressed the concern that Trojan horse malware created for the use of law enforcement could easily fall into the hands of hackers, who might repurpose it for use in identity theft or industrial espionage.

As El Reg has argued before, proposals for law enforcement to use Trojans are a thoroughly bad idea.

Would-be terrorists need only use Ubuntu Linux to avoid the ploy. And even if they stuck with Windows their anti-virus software might detect the malware. Anti-virus firms that accede to law enforcement demands to turn a blind eye to state-sanctioned malware risk undermining trust in their software, as similar experience in the US has shown. ®

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