Feeds

EU cybercrime strategy backs law enforcement Trojan

Remote searches? Nein danke

The essential guide to IT transformation

Remote searches of suspects' computers could become a mainstay of cybercrime investigations under a new EU strategy announced last week.

The EU Council of Ministers also agreed closer cooperation between law enforcement agencies across Europe, including joint investigation teams. The five-year plan devised by the ministers also includes more information exchange on best practices, criminal trends and the like between law enforcement agencies and the private sector, and more cyber patrols.

The financial impact of cybercrime remains a bit of a mystery, not helped by the lack of well-organised reporting structures in Europe. As a short-term fix the EU has earmarked €300,000 for Europol to establish a clearing house (or perhaps desk, given the small sums involved) for crimes committed on the internet, such as the distribution of images of child abuse.

The EU cites computer viruses, spam, ID theft and child pornography as its main concerns. "Images of sexually abused children available online quadrupled in the last five years and half of all internet crime involves the production, distribution and sale of child pornography," a declaration from the meeting states.

Many of the measures agreed by the Council of Ministers continue with existing policies in areas such as closer European coordinating and cooperation in the fight against cybercrime. The increased use of remote searches stands out as a new, and controversial, direction in policy.

In practical terms, remote searches would involve planting law enforcement Trojans on suspects' PCs. Police in Germany are most enthusiastic about pushing this tactic, the sort of approach even Vic Mackey from The Shield might baulk at, despite its many potential drawbacks, highlighted by El Reg on numerous occasions.

For starters, infecting the PC of a target of an investigation is hit and miss. Malware is not a precision weapon, and that raises the possibility that samples of the malware might fall into the hands of cybercrooks.

Even if a target does get infected there's a good chance any security software they've installed will detect the malware. Any security vendor who agreed to turn a blind eye to state-sanctioned Trojans would risk compromising their reputation, as amply illustrated by the Magic Lantern controversy in the US a few years back.

Then there are the civil liberties implications of the approach and questions about whether evidence obtained using the tactic is admissable in court.

Despite all these problems the idea of a law enforcement Trojan continues to gain traction and could become mainstream within five years, if EU ministers get their way. ®

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
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
What do you mean, I have to POST a PHYSICAL CHEQUE to get my gun licence?
Stop bitching about firearms fees - we need computerisation
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?