Feeds

Germany seeks malware 'specialists' to bug terrorists

Daft plan gains further traction

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

The German government has reportedly started hiring coders to develop "white hat" malware capable of covertly hacking into terrorists' PCs.

The recruitment push signals that the German government is going ahead with controversial plans, yet to be legally approved, to develop "remote forensic software" (AKA a law enforcement Trojan). BKA federal police have been directed by the Interior Ministry to resume the initiative and hire two "specialists"*, AAP reports.

Proposals to give explicit permission for law enforcement officials to plant malware stem from a Federal Court ruling earlier this year declaring clandestine searches of suspects' computers to be inadmissible as evidence, pending a law regulating the practice. Germany's Federal Court of Justice said the practice was not covered by existing surveillance legislation.

The former East Germany, and the country as a whole before the war, has a dark history of official surveillance. The idea of a law enforcement Trojan has sparked a fierce civil liberties debate, as well as objections from the IT security community.

Geoff Sweeney, CTO with security firm Tier-3, said since the Trojans will almost certainly be launched against suspects disguised as a harmless email, they pose a serious IT security threat if they fall into the wrong hands.

"Reworking of malware goes on all the time. If these Trojans are developed specifically for German anti-terrorist usage, it's almost certain that conventional IT security software will have no protection against their usage on civilian PCs," he said.

Law enforcement Trojans, under active consideration in Austria as well as Germany, 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 evidenced by the fuss created when similar plans for a "Magic Lantern" Trojan for law enforcement surfaced some years ago.

Even if, for arguments sake, security firms ignore state-sanctions from the US and Germany, would they also ignore Trojans from the Chinese People's Liberation Army or Nigeria? ®

* Germany has no shortage of convicted VXers potentially up to the job of writing malware. Most notable is Sven Jaschan, self-confessed author of the infamous Sasser worm. Jan de Wit, infamous author of the Anna Kournikova worm, comes from the Netherlands, just over the border with Germany. Thanks to EU rules on free movement of labour, he might also be eligible to apply.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
'Things' on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece
Leaking sprinklers, overheated thermostats and picked locks all online
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.