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Several international law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, held meetings with German police between 2008-12 to discuss the deployment of a monitoring software to covertly infiltrate computers, according to German government reports and reported by Ryan Gallagher at Slate.The revelations come in response to questions by Andrej Hunko, a member of German Parliament, after a Berlin-based hacker collective called “Chaos Computer Club” exposed in October that the German police were using potentially illegal software called “Bundestrojaner” (i.e. federal Trojan horse) to spy on suspects.
The Bundestrojaner spyware can be disguised as a legitimate software update and can monitor Internet use, log messenger chats and keystrokes, record Skype calls and activate microphones or webcams to record audio or snapshots to send back to authorities.
German courts approved requests from officials to employ the programs at least 50 times and German law enforcement officials smuggled the spyware onto hard drives of suspected criminals at least 25 times.
International law enforcement agencies have taken notice.
In a letter from Secretary of State Ole Schröder on March 6, which I have translated, Hunko was informed that German federal police force, the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), met to discuss the use of monitoring software with counterparts from the U.S., Britain, Israel, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and Austria. The meetings took place separately between Feb. 19, 2008, and Feb. 1, 2012.
The letter goes on to say that the FBI, France’s secret service (i.e. DCRI) and UK’s Serious organised Crime Agency (SOCA) met with German law enforcement to discuss the basic legal requirements and the technical aspects of using the highly intrusive surveillance technology, according to Slate.
In 2011 German authorities acquired a licence to test a similar Trojan technology called “FinSpy” that was reportedly used for five months by Hosni Mubarak’s Egyptian state security forces in 2010 to monitor Skype accounts and record conversations over the Internet.
The revelations are informative about the desire of governments to employ shady techniques to track citizens but, as Gallagher notes, “we are left with many more questions than answers.”
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