There’s a new web tool that lets people see if the government is using surveillance spyware on your PC.
Amnesty International release the product today in a fight back against “repressive governments” who are misusing spyware against society.
Detekt scans computers for traces of major spyware and sends alerts to users if something is picked up. If an intrusion is found, there’s a specific “emergency” page online. The application also logs data to use in investigations.
It’s been launched by a coalition of human rights charities and technology organisations, including Privacy International and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Amnesty International explains it’s the first application made available to everyone — although it’s only for download on Windows — and was developed by security researcher Claudio Guarnieri.
Head of Military, Security and Police at Amnesty International, Marek Marczynski, says: “Governments are increasingly using dangerous and sophisticated technology that allows them to read activists and journalist’ private emails and remotely turn on their computer’s camera or microphone to secretly record their activities.”
Marczynski adds authorities make use of spyware in a “cowardly attempt to prevent abuses from being exposed”, and says Detekt is a strike back against the misuse of information.
The Coalition Against Unlawful Surveillance Exports estimates the annual global trade in surveillance technology is worth $US5 billion.
The organisations say, ultimately, Detekt is only a temporary solution though.
“The only way to prevent these technologies from being used to violate or abuse human rights is to establish and enforce strict controls on their use and trade,” says Marczynski.
The most high-profile incident of government spying, of course, involves computer analyst Edward Snowden, who leaked thousands of top secret documents that exposed a worldwide network of spying by the US’s National Security Agency and the UK’s GCHQ.
A lot of spyware programs are available on the internet. One example is FinFisher’s FinSpy, which can be used to monitor Skype conversations, extract files from hard drives, record microphones and emails, and take screenshots.
It’s not just governments who spy, of course. A Russian website is apparently collecting the feeds of thousands of webcams worldwide, allowing any internet user to see into private homes.
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