Germany’s Federal Government has officially announced their new Trojan horse malware, called “Bundestrojaner”. The computer software allows government to track the communications of anyone who downloads it, in addition to purchasing an “off the shelf” tool from a company which is said to help authoritarian regimes track their citizens.
The Trojan horse software is malicious software which is disguised as something innocent like, for instance, a free screen saver or game. As soon as the user opens the file, the malicious code infects the target computer, usually offering the person who created it, an access to all kinds of information like being able to record keystrokes, browse files, etc.
According to Andrea Vosshoff , the Federal Data Protection Commissioner, the testing of the software has been completed and that it will be used to follow the movements and actions of suspected criminals and others.
Federal government tried to reassure concerned citizens by saying that the software only has the capacity to monitor communications and not have access to sensitive files. It is also known that the program would record the subject’s microphone for telephone or Skype calls, log the key strokes of a computer or mobile device, and access the cameras of any device infected.
The critics of this project claim that the government could theoretically gain access to anyone’s computer files, personal sensitive information without the person ever being aware that they had been infected with the malware.
The Green Party deputy head Konstantin von Notz said, “We do understand the needs of security officials, but still, in a country under the rule of law, the means don’t justify the end.”
In fact, this is not the first time the German government has attempted to create a trojan horse program. About five years ago, the government created similar malware in secret without the knowledge of the public. Then, the hacker group “Chaos Computer Club” discovered the original trojan and leaked its details to the press causing a scandal. The lawyer of the person whose computer was infected by the trojan said that the government had installed it on his client’s computer as he was going through the customs at Munich airport.
Later on, the Federal Constitution Court approved the initial project but subjected it to a very limited scope. According to the judge in the case, the only thing the trojan should be allowed to view is search terms or communications which indicate a viable danger to the life of a person or their liberty. The trojan was not to be able to access all messages and files on the infected persons computer or mobile device.
The company FinFisher Gamma-International has developed a software called FinFisher or FinSpy. They are based in the UK and in Germany and specialize in developing spyware for governments and law enforcement agencies. The company has been at the centre of many controversies as oppressive regimes have used their software to spy on potential political critics of their various regimes.