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German Governments admit spyware was theirs

  • 12 October 2011
  • Written by 
  • Published in Security

During the past 24 hours, as many as four German state governments have admitted to using spyware against their citizens.

 

Recent European and other press reports have clarified the situation with the Chaos Computer Club's discovery of a supposed German Government spyware package which iTWire reported yesterday.

Yes it was the Government's package and (thus far) four states (Bavaria, Baden-Wurttemberg, Brandenburg and Lower Saxony) have admitted to using it; but the Federal Government continues to deny any use.

Despite a very clear Constitutional Court ruling banning any spyware package with the abilities described by CCC, various authorities have claimed that the states have been operating entirely within the law.  Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann, for instance claimed that he saw no problem with the use of the Trojan to track down criminals.

Except the part where it was declared illegal by the Constitutional Court, of course.

Federal Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has asked for an investigation; "Trying to play down or trivialise the matter won't do," she said. "The citizen, in both the public and private spheres, must be protected from snooping through strict state control mechanisms."

WikiLeaks is also involved.


Interestingly, Sophos' Graham Cluley has reported an interesting twist.  It appears that in 2008, WikiLeaks posted what appears to be a conversation between the Bavarian Justice Minister and a German company, Digitask outlining the development of a piece of software that seems to closely match the spyware currently in view.

Also, Cluley's blog indicates that a person accused of illegal pharmaceutical export claims to have had the spyware installed on his laptop while transiting Customs at Munich Airport.  Although later deleted, this laptop was one of the spyware sources provided to the CCC (with the permission of the accused person). 

As part of their research, the CCC also claims to have located many computers infected by this spyware all over Germany.

 

Earlier this week, CCC spokeswoman Constanze Kurz told German radio that the group was "quite sure" the German government had developed the malware.

"We have no doubt, otherwise we wouldn't have gone public with it," she said.  F-Secure's Mikko Hypponen added, while not being able to independently verify the claims, "We have no reason to doubt CCC findings."

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