German authorities approve the use of home-made Federal Trojan

Pierluigi Paganini February 28, 2016

The German Interior Ministry has approved the use of a federal Trojan developed by the German Federal Criminal Police.

The German Interior Ministry has approved the use a spyware developed by the German Federal Criminal Police, aka the ‘federal Trojan’ or Bundestrojaner, for the investigative purpose.

“Soon the state could re-enter the computer of suspicious citizens. The Bundeskriminalamt has had to develop their own Trojan horse that should receive the application approval in the coming weeks, as the Germany radio has been confirmed. The Chaos Computer Club and Green remain skeptical whether the new software meets the requirements of the Federal Constitutional Court.” reports the Deutschlandfunk.

The German Federal Criminal Police completed the development of the malware in autumn 2015, it allows investigators to spy on suspects’ phone calls, emails, chats, and access files and sensitive data stored on the mobile devices. The federal Trojan is also able to record video or audio from the surrounding environment.

The authorities can now use the federal Trojan under a court order, the spyware could be used in any investigation on individuals involved in a crime threatening citizens’ “life, limb or liberty.”

Experts from the German Chaos Computer Club (CCC) expressed their concern for the Federal Trojan, Frank Rieger, a spokesman for the organizations, highlights the abilities of the malware of setting up a video or audio surveillance.

In 2011, the experts at Chaos Computer Club analyzed another sample of the Federal Trojan. The experts discovered that the spyware had the ability to set up a backdoor on the suspect’s machine and spy on surround environment via camera and microphone.

Federal Trojan

The ministers of several German states admitted the use of the malware and explained that the malware analyzed by the CCC was a beta version of a spyware created by the German firm DigiTask.  The spyware was rejected by authorities because it implemented many surveillance operations instead the only telecommunication surveillance.

The experts at CCC speculates that the so-called Federal Trojan is dangerous for citizens, in fact, it could be easy that also innocent users fall victims of the surveillance activities operated by the authorities.

Another aspect highlighted by privacy advocates is the way such kind of malware is developed, the authors of the spyware need to access zero-day exploit to compromise suspects’ devices, but this implies that authorities will not share such knowledge within the IT community putting citizens at risk.

The Deutschlandfunk also confirmed that German police also use other spyware, including the infamous FinFisher malware developed  by Gamma International.

“The Bundeskriminalamt had a software ordered parallel to the self-development even in a controversial company to source telecommunication surveillance. According to the BKA, the adaptation of the product is FinFisher the German-British company Elaman / Gamma International is not yet complete, however, is to be promoted following the own development.” states Deutschlandfunk.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Federal Trojan, law enforcement)

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