Feeds

German hackers snare wiretap Trojan, accuse gov of writing it...

Who would admit to writing crappy code anyway?

Security for virtualized datacentres

German hackers have captured and analysed a cyber-sleuth Trojan which they claim may have been used by police to tap Skype calls and IM chats of criminal or terrorist suspects.

German wiretap laws do in fact permit the use of a "Bundestrojaner" ("Federal Trojan"), which has been used by police to record VoIP conversations for a few years.

But the so-called R2D2 (AKA 0zapftis) Trojan – which has not been confirmed as a creation of the German government – has far more capabilities than this, including the ability to download updates from the internet, log keystrokes, eavesdrop on IM chats and take screenshots. The backdoor function exceeds what's permissible under German law.

Sophos has said:

We have no way of knowing if the Trojan was written by the German state – and so far, the German authorities aren't confirming any involvement.

The comments in the Trojan's binary code could just as easily be planted by someone mischievously wanting the Trojan to be misidentified as the infamous Bundestrojaner.

The R2D2 Trojan was captured by the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) and made public over the weekend, sparking a huge row in privacy-sensitive Germany.

A CCC spokes-hacker said:

This refutes the claim that an effective separation of just wiretapping internet telephony and a full-blown Trojan is possible in practice – or even desired. Our analysis revealed once again that law enforcement agencies will overstep their authority if not watched carefully.

Hackers from the group reverse-engineered samples of the malware code before analysing the functions built into the software. It concludes that any machine infected by the Trojan might be easily seized by third-party hackers.

The screenshots and audio files it sends out are encrypted in an incompetent way, the commands from the control software to the Trojan are completely unencrypted. Neither the commands to the Trojan nor its replies are authenticated or have their integrity protected. Not only can unauthorised third parties assume control of the infected system, but even attackers of mediocre skill level can connect to the authorities, claim to be a specific instance of the Trojan, and upload fake data.

A English-language statement by CCC on its find can be found here. The German chancellor's press secretary denied that the R2D2 trojan has been used by the BKA, the German Federal criminal police. This denial has failed to stem speculation.

One popular theory is the Trojan might have been created by Digitask for the Bavarian government. Such speculation in interesting, though not based on any evidence outside of papers released by WikiLeaks suggesting Digitask had at least offered to create this sort of software.

Security firms say it is impossible to know who created the code from the evidence available.

Net security firm F-Secure writes:

"We have no reason to suspect CCC's findings, but we can't confirm that this Trojan was written by the German government... As far as we see, the only party that could confirm that would be the German government itself.

Anti-virus firms including F-Secure and Sophos have already added detection against the malware, along with commentary on the row (here and here, respectively). Other security outfits can be expected to follow suit; they are obliged to add detection for any blob of malware they come across regardless of who created it. Turning a blind eye to state-sponsored malware, especially in the post-Stuxnet era, would be commercial suicide. ®

Bootnote

The R2D2 name comes from a string of ASCII, "C3PO-r2d2-POE", found in the mystery Trojan. Likewise, the 0zapftis name also appears, a phrase meaning "the barrel is open" that's used by the Munich mayor in opening Oktoberfest every year.

Security firms agree with CCC that the Trojan is lame. F-Secure's Mikko Hypponen tweeted amusingly:

It's not well written. Which, I guess, makes it *more* likely it's developed by a Government...

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NASTY SSL 3.0 vuln to be revealed soon – sources (Update: It's POODLE)
So nasty no one's even whispering until patch is out
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
Admins! Never mind POODLE, there're NEW OpenSSL bugs to splat
Four new patches for open-source crypto libraries
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
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.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
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?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.