Government trojan found on German computers

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   Oct 11, 2011

Four states admit the use of spyware.

Controversy has arisen in Germany, after the well-known CCC hacker group reported that it had found a trojan that was used to spy on behalf of law enforcement agencies.

The malware, which has since been given the names 'R2D2', '0zapftis', and more informally, 'Bundestrojaner' ('Federal trojan'), shares many properties with ordinary malware: it logs keystrokes, monitors online activity, takes screenshots and can be updated remotely. However, the CCC believed that German law enforcement agencies were behind the trojan - which they say goes far beyond what would be allowed under German law.

Initially, federal law enforcement agencies denied involvement in the malware, but agencies in four states (Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg and Lower Saxony) have since admitted the use of what they claim is legitimate software. Joachim Herrmann, the Bavarian interior minister, has promised to investigate the case and there have also been calls for a federal investigation.

The use of 'malware' for good purposes has long been a controversial topic within the anti-malware industry and several people have in the past suggested the use of 'good viruses' for various purposes. The general belief within the industry is that this is a bad idea, that anti-malware software is there to protect customers, and that malware should be detected regardless of its purpose.

Ethical issues aside, there is also the possibility of cybercriminals using the malware for true criminal purposes; should a vendor decide not to detect it, this could seriously jeopardize customers' online security.

More at F-Secure here and at ESET here with some useful FAQs at Sophos's Naked Security blog here. Deutsche Welle, the German World Service, is following latest developments here.

Posted on 11 October 2011 by Virus Bulletin

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