There is a worrying trend in the world at the moment for government agencies to use spyware as surveillance on computers. Here we discuss 3 surprising cases you’ve probably never heard of, but which are having a major impact in the cyber world.
1# German Police
Germany have been found to be using a police-run Trojan that can record messenger chats and Skype calls and even look at users through their web cams. This is in violation of a German privacy law. It is claimed that it is only in cases of serious crime that these tools are used and only to record live conversations, not to look through hard drives or take screenshots. This tool could easily be in breach of the law as it cannot be proved that it simply monitors telephone style conversations online and doesn’t do anything more.
As a result of these problems, the German equivalent of the FBI, the BKA, is now looking to recruit professionals to develop spyware for them. They say they require IT specialists to create ‘technical surveillance methods’ to be used for secret, remote access to computers when they are investigating crimes. These professionals are asked to be able to collaborate internationally and have a good grasp of English. This implies that they will be collaborating with authorities in other countries to develop the software they are creating for surveillance.
The FBI has its own spyware which is used to find evidence about proven criminals which has existed since 1999. However, UK law prevents anything which can modify computer material, so using technology in criminal cases which span across both countries can be difficult. Declassified documentation has shown that spyware has helped the FBI to identify terrorist threats, hacker attacks, and federal investigations. Its use was first highlighted in 2007 when it was used to identify the source of an emailed bomb threat to a Washington High School. Since then it has been used in many cases; from someone posing as an FBI agent to major hacker investigations.
3# Italian Hacking Professionals
If police can’t afford to pay their own programmers to make Trojans they can always buy them from hacking professionals who can create them specifically for governments. There is an Italian firm called the Hacking Team which sells licenses from around two hundred thousand Euros. It has apparently sold its software to over thirty different countries. They claim that their software can attack computers remotely without detection. The software investigates use of Skype, instant messaging, email, web browsers, and web cams, and can detect deleted files on computers that use the Microsoft operating system or Apple Macs. There are other companies in Italy also creating similar packages and selling them abroad which has resulted in the creation of laws preventing the sale of such products to particular countries which appear to be a threat.
Although these spyware technologies may be seen as being vital methods to prevent serious crime, we can’t ignore the fact that they can also be used to monitor private conversations among usual citizens who are just expressing opinions and not actually committing crimes. As the amount of arrests increase for people who are just expressing an opinion online, the knowledge that thoughts expressed privately can also be investigated is certainly something to think about.
Author bio:- Written by James Sheehan, a blogger on internet security issues. James is interested in technology in education, social media trends and cyber security. He also writes for security advice site knowthenet. You can find him on Google+