Feeds

FBI sought approval to use spyware against terror suspects

Magic Lantern reloaded

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

Analysis The FBI has reportedly sought the go-ahead to use a custom spyware package to bug terrorists and other national security suspects. Indirect evidence suggests that the request was likely to have been approved.

An application to use the Computer and Internet Protocol Address Verifier (CIPAV) spyware program was sought from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2005, according to papers obtained by Wired after filling a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court rubber-stamps surveillance orders and covert entries in cases involving national security or terrorism. The court, established by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, is based at the Justice Department's headquarters. FISC hearings are closed.

Among the reams of papers released in response to Wired's request (largely composed of internal emails and technical documents) are affidavits submitted by the FBI to the FISC star chamber to use the CIPAV package. The software is designed to log a target's internet use, recording every IP address a suspect computer communicates with. It also performs an inventory of operating systems, installed and running applications and logs open ports, IP addresses and Mac addresses of targeted PCs.

The existence of CIPAV came to light in July when it emerged in affidavits that feds used the package to trace the perpetrators of high school bomb hoaxes. The FBI declined to answer Wired's follow-up questions on its use of the surveillance tool.

FISC approved 2,072 warrants it considered in 2005 and 2,181 in 2006, rejecting none. Five requests were withdrawn before a ruling was made. Given this track record it seems more than probable that FISC approved the use of CIPAV.

Law Enforcement Trojan ploy

US authorities are far from alone in seeking approval for the use of "remote forensic software" (AKA a law enforcement Trojan) to bug the PCs of terrorist suspects. The German government is reportedly in the process of hiring coders to develop "white hat" malware capable of covertly hacking into PCs ahead of plans to change German law to allow the practice. Proposals by German firm Digitask to develop software to intercept Skype VoIP communications and SSL transmissions leaked onto the net last month.

The wider use of encryption and VoIP is creating problems for law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement use of spyware tactics might, according to some law enforcement officials at least, level the playing field by providing a vital extra tool in the fight against terrorism.

However, the scheme is fraught with difficulties.

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

Next page: Reality Bites

More from The Register

next story
Brit celebs' homes VANISH from Google's Street View
Tony Blair's digs now a Tone-y Blur
UK's emergency data slurp: IT giants panicked over 'legal uncertainty'
PM says rushed-through DRIP law will 'plug holes' in existing legislation
German government orders local CIA station chief to pack his bags
Sour Krauts arrest second local in domestic spy ring probe
Doctor Who season eight scripts leak online
BBC asks fans to EXTERMINATE copies before they materialise
Snowden leaks latest: NSA, FBI g-men spied on Muslim-American chiefs
US Navy veteran? Lawmaker? Academic? You're all POTENTIAL TERRORISTS
Russian MP fears US Secret Service cuffed his son for Snowden swap
Seleznev Jnr is 'prolific trafficker in stolen credit card data', it is alleged
Adobe Flash: The most INSECURE program on a UK user's PC
XML a weak spot, but nothing's as dire as Adobe player
Teensy card skimmers found in gullets of ATMs
Hi-tech fraudsters treading more softly, but gas still yielding bang for buck
Weaponised Flash flaw can pinch just about anything from anywhere
This is a 'patch now or regret it sooner-rather-than-later' mess for you and webmasters
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem
Building your ideal BladeSystem infrastructure solution begins with eight simple steps, outlined in this whitepaper.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Build a Business Case: Developing Custom Apps
In this whitepaper learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.