Skype crypto stumps German cops
Police boss attempts to justify Trojan plan
German police have expressed frustration about their inability to decipher the encryption used by Skype in order to tap into the VoIP calls of suspected terrorists.
Lawful interception (or wiretapping) of telephone calls has happened since before the time of rotary phones. In many countries, telecos must promise to allow wiretapping to be granted a license. VoIP services provided by software firms independent of ISPs complicate this picture.
"The encryption with Skype telephone software... creates grave difficulties for us," said Joerg Ziercke, president of Germany's Federal Police Office (BKA) at an annual gathering of security and law enforcement officials. "We can't decipher it. That's why we're talking about source telecommunication surveillance - that is, getting to the source before encryption or after it's been decrypted."
Ziercke's comments are an attempt to justify controversial German plans, yet to be legally approved, to develop "remote forensic software" (AKA a law enforcement Trojan). 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.
The idea of a law enforcement Trojan has sparked a fierce civil liberties debate, as well as objections from the IT security community. German police are reportedly looking to hire two "specialists" to develop "white hat" malware. Ziercke's comments provide an insight into the sort of capabilities, such as capturing the raw output of microphones on compromised PCs, that these law enforcement Trojans ought to have.
Ziercke told reporters that it was not asking Skype to divulge its encryption keys or leave "back doors open" for law enforcement authorities, arguing that such requests would leave the eBay-owned VoIP firm at a competitive disadvantage to other services. "There are no discussions with Skype. I don't think that would help. I don't think that any provider would go for that," he said.
Next page: Uncrackable Skype?
@Tony & Marco
You are not one of those who actually believes Al Qaeda exists as anything other than one or two crazy old men with no real power and no real threat? You are aware that Al Qaeda is a CIA creation? Surly you are aware that the GWOT is a Neo-Con invention designed to make a few rich men in the Military Industrial Complex richer?
White Hats indeed. If any policing organization resorts to criminal activity (and cracking is criminal in most civilized countries) then they are part of the problem, not the solution.
Come on... when will we collectively wake up and realize we have been handed a big black lie? When will we figure out that the vast majority of Terrorists are us... the greedy west, not Muslims.
When, when when, will humanity grow up and end this nonsense once and for all?
Dear God, let these ignorant men get an education and start thinking for themselves, instead of just accepting what they are told...
Stop the world, I want to get off....
Law enforcement armoury
"Ziercke argued that the ability to plant "Trojan horse" spyware on the PCs of suspected terrorists would be an important tool in the armoury of law enforcement officials."
Other important tools in the armoury of law enforcement officials include: guns, sticks, pepper spray, cattle prods (now with improved range and known as Tasers), shrink wrap + water, shackles, thick clothing + the Sun + open ground, blindfolds, ear muffs and other sensory deprivation paraphenalia, and thin glass tubes suitable for insertion into the urethra before shattering.
This is in addition to the unquestioning support and obediance of large sections of the public and media, the ability to already invade our privacy to an unprecedented extent, and an effective licence to kill given the fact that no law enforcement official has ever been given a significant punishment for killing an innocent man.
Isn't the armoury of law enforcement officials big enough already?
Tamil Tigers are Maoist?
This is the first time I've heard of it. And what's the snide remark about atheists? There are just as many people killed by religious zealots as there are by atheists.