Home Business IT Security Chaos Computer Club 'outs' German Government's spyware

Claiming the usual "it arrived in an anonymous brown paper bag," the Chaos Computer Club has announced the reverse engineering of what is claimed to be the German authorities' intercept malware, Quellen-TKÜ.

Assuming the CCC claims are true, German law enforcement will need a very large towel to wipe all the egg off its face. 

According to various analyses, the seemingly government-owned Trojan (as Sophos refers to it):

  • Can eavesdrop on several communication applications - including Skype, MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger.
  • Can log keystrokes in Firefox, Opera, Internet Explorer and SeaMonkey.
  • Can take JPEG screenshots of what appears on users' screens and record Skype audio calls.
  • Attempts to communicate with a remote website.


In fact others have observed that there are two remote IP addresses with which it is configured to communicate - both on rented servers in the USA.

Of some considerable interest is that (as the CCC reports) a German Constitutional Court ruling, on February 27 2008 forbade the use of malware to manipulate German citizen's PCs.  Furthermore, the ruling restricted such activities to software configured specifically for the surveillance target's computer; such software was not permitted to be extensible and must conform to any reasonable description of "wiretapping internet telephony."

Despite the prohibition on extensibility, the reverse engineering of the Trojan clearly showed that not only was it fully extensible, but that it was poorly written with a 'broken' implementation of AES and with its command messages (and responses) transmitted entirely in the clear.

Moreover, the Trojan included the ability to download updates from the Internet, to execute code remotely and to give remote control of the target computer to the Trojan's owner.

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David Heath

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David Heath has over 25 years experience in the IT industry, specializing particularly in customer support, security and computer networking. Heath has worked previously as head of IT for The Television Shopping Network, as the network and desktop manager for Armstrong Jones (a major funds management organization) and has consulted into various Australian federal government agencies (including the Department of Immigration and the Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence). He has also served on various state, national and international committees for Novell Users International; he was also the organising chairman for the 1994 Novell Users' Conference in Brisbane. Heath is currently employed as an Instructional Designer, building technical training courses for industrial process control systems.

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