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Monday, October 17, 2011

Federal Trojan Used In Germany

Last week, the country’s Chaos Computer Club published a detailed analysis of the state trojan used by different police forces for spying on suspects. The outfit pointed out that the trojan in question breached tight limits set by the country’s highest court.

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Restrictions imposed by the high court limited any kind of trojan used by police and other intelligence services to surveillance of voice chats via Skype. Nevertheless, it turned out the police have simply ignored the order of the Federal Constitutional Court and kept using an insecure and shoddily programmed trojan that offered much more features than was allowed.

Aside from being badly programmed and insecure, the trojan also allowed to download and install different modules. In theory, investigators can go as far as to search HDDs and manipulate information. Meanwhile, commands transmitted to the trojan aren’t even encrypted, and only one single key was used for all the trojans. Information transferred from computers and commands is routed through a server located somewhere in the United States, outside of German law.

Different antivirus outfits called trojan R2D2 because of the inclusion of C3PO, R2D2 and POE into the code. It was developed by a German company named Digitask, whose CEO and founder was sentenced to almost 2 years probation and a 1.5 million euro fine a decade ago for bribing state employees at the Customs Criminal Office in Cologne. After this his company renamed itself and continued selling services to state agencies.

One of such trojans was sent to the club by one of the German lawyers: it turned out that Bavarian state police installed it on the PC of his client during the investigation on drug-related charges. The trojan forwarded screenshots to the police that were in clear breach of the legislation. However, later the court found out that the police had no legal basis to do that. The matter is that the Bavarian police couldn’t make use of a trojan to track this person, as the high court restricted not just the means of surveillance, but also in which cases a trojan could be used by the police. These cases are clearly limited to the most serious crimes, and the charges against the individual in question were not that serious.

By the way, Bavaria wasn’t the only region to use the Trojan – police of other states employed it to monitor suspects against facing an international arrest warrants as well. 

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