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article imageOp-Ed: Bundestrojan — German ‘official’ Trojan can get into email, Skype

By Paul Wallis     Oct 30, 2011 in Internet
Sydney - Well, if you want to read about Western government-sponsored Trojans, read Xinhua. Notably not showing up on the radar of other tech sites I’ve seen recently, the German Bundestrojan is considered dangerous- by hackers.
According to Xinhua:
The software that is supposed to be a "lawful interception" program designed to monitor Internet-based phone calls as part of a legal wiretap goes far beyond the legal bounds, according to the Chaos Computer Club, a Germany-based hacker group.
"We got our hands on it and found it is doing much more than it is legally allowed to do," said Frank Rieger, a member of the club.
Germany allowed the use of the backdoor program Bundestrojan, which permits government investigators to listen in on Skype-based phone calls. Since 2008, Bundestrojan has been ruled legal by Germany's Federal Constitutional Court as long as it screened only very specific communications -- Internet telephone calls.
The hackers sent the virus to an internet security firm in Finland and found that Bundestrojan could conduct key logging, activate cameras and send information to government agencies. It can run on 64 bit systems, and could infect:
The list of targeted applications includes major browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera, as well programs with VoIP and data encryption functionality, including ICQ, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Skype, Low-Rate VoIP, CounterPath X-Lite and Paltalk.
This, of course, isn’t the whole story, or anything like it. As you will have noticed, this is a very broad-based Trojan, and it has another ramification- It can be copied, modified and expanded. The Chaos Club didn’t have any trouble getting their hands on it, so it’s reasonable to assume that others would find it equally easy.
This is a different class of Trojan. If it can affect Skype, it can infect 600+ million computers without even trying. It’s also designed to be a surveillance Trojan, so it has more built in capabilities than the average.
The famously informative internet expert sites haven’t been following this subject very enthusiastically. PC World has an article from a couple of weeks back which states:
Kaspersky said its products detected the Trojan installer heuristically even before a sample was analyzed and signatures were added for it. However, those tools may not help if outsiders can manually add an exception in the program.
“Heuristically” means that the software more or less guesses, based on associative logic, that something is malware. So an antivirus program will find something, and its most logical approach is to assume it’s a virus. Fascinating leap of logic, don’t know how they thought of it.
It also doesn’t mean that modifications couldn’t turn Bundestrojan into a much trickier version of itself. This multiple cross-app ability is potentially dangerous, and if people know where to find Bundestrojan, they’ve got all the raw materials they need to create a very nasty virus, or whole new class of viruses, at no cost to them.
Government authorities are going to have to get used to the idea that like Tasers and other police equipment, it can be used against both themselves and other people who aren’t supposed to be targets.
Meanwhile, hope your antivirus upgrades get the message about this class of Trojans. They could become very fashionable. What bothers me is that everyone on the net seems to assume that simply because it’s a government virus, it must therefore be easy to manage, and “someone must know” how to handle it if it goes rogue. As a matter of fact, some of the best hackers in the world are employed by governments. You may be able to make a gun, too, but can you fix the damage it does?
Interestingly, a few years back the German government told the world that Internet Explorer was too insecure to use. Wonder why?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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