Feeds

German cyberplods raid Pirate Party on Skype Trojan mole hunt

BayernTrojaner controversy heats up

The essential guide to IT transformation

Bavarian cops have searched the office of a spokesman for the German Pirate Party (Piratenpartei Deutschland) hunting for a mole who leaked information on plans to develop a Trojan capable of eavesdropping on Skype conversation, according to local reports.

Golem.de reports that an office in the home of Pirate Party spokesman Ralph dog Erlach was searched in the early hours of September 11 by police demanding to know who had leaked plans for the controversial wiretap program. Police took away files and computer servers, said to be protected by strong encryption.

The German Pirate Party, which campaigns about the misuse of copyright and other issues, is styled after the better-known Swedish Pirate Party and represents a minor political grouping in the German political scene. The party won a 0.3 per cent of votes in the Hesse state election this year, the first it has contested.

German reports don't say but the raid on the Pirate Party spokesman apparently follows the publication of two leaked documents on Wikileaks in January. One detailed plans by German firm Digitask to develop wiretap packages capable of intercepting Skype VoIP communications and SSL transmissions, while the second contained costing and licensing proposals for such software drawn up by the Bavarian Ministry of Justice.

If nothing else, the raid provides suggestive evidence of the authenticity of these documents.

Bavaria became the first German state to pass legislation that allows police to plant spyware on the PCs of suspects in terrorist investigations back in July. The measure is strongly opposed by both sections of the security community and privacy activists, who might yet mount some kind of legal challenge at the federal level.

Skype promises confidentiality through encrypted calls, but not anonymity. For example, a fugitive business exec was tracked down to Sri Lanka by private detectives in 2006 after making a Skype call. Often police are simply interested in who a target is talking to and when rather than the content of conversations.

That's not enough for to satisfy some law enforcement agencies, however.

German police have been the most vocal in complaining about how encryption and VoIP was making their lives miserable. Spyware was seen as a way of turning back the clock to the sort of set-up on monitoring suspects depicted in the film Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others), adding an extra tool in the fight against terrorism in the process.

But the whole Trojan ruse is fraught with numerous difficulties. Quite aside from concerns about the admissibility of evidence obtained using the tactic there's also the worry that samples of the malware might fall into the hands of cybercrooks.

Then there's the possibility that the anti-virus software of suspects might detect the state-sanctioned malware. Security firms that agree to law enforcement requests to turn a blind eye to state-sanctioned malware risk would undermine trust in their technology, as demonstrated by the Magic Lantern controversy in the US a few years ago. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
GCHQ protesters stick it to British spooks ... by drinking urine
Activists told NOT to snap pics of staff at the concrete doughnut
Britain's housing crisis: What are we going to do about it?
Rent control: Better than bombs at destroying housing
What do you mean, I have to POST a PHYSICAL CHEQUE to get my gun licence?
Stop bitching about firearms fees - we need computerisation
Top beak: UK privacy law may be reconsidered because of social media
Rise of Twitter etc creates 'enormous challenges'
Redmond resists order to hand over overseas email
Court wanted peek as related to US investigation
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
NZ Justice Minister scalped as hacker leaks emails
Grab your popcorn: Subterfuge and slur disrupts election run up
We need less U.S. in our WWW – Euro digital chief Steelie Neelie
EC moves to shift status quo at Internet Governance Forum
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.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
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.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?