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    Deutsche Welle: German criminal agency continuing to test surveillance tech

    Deutsche Welle reports on the use by Germany of a commercial spyware program that has also been used by Egypt under Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted as president last year:

    Germany’s federal criminal agency, the BKA, is testing at least one commercial spyware program, FinSpy, delivered through the German subsidiary of Britain’s Gamma International.

    FinSpy was exposed last year as being a surveillance application that was used in Mubarak’s Egypt. It infects computers by fooling targets into installing a fake update for iTunes on desktop computers, or even a spoof download for BlackBerry mobile phones. Then, the application can provide surveillance through the computer’s own webcam and microphone, and download files without being detected.

    This revelation comes three months after the German government admitted to using an software surveillance tool after a Berlin hacker group announced it had found serious flaws in that application.

    The German government confirmed the use of the commercial surveillance software last week in a response to an inquiry by Green Party parliamentarian, Konstantin von Notz, a representative from Mölln, outside of Hamburg, in northern Germany. […]

    The government confirmed that the BKA acquired in early 2011 a license to test FinSpy for a limited period. […]

    Von Notz believes, however, that the BKA has more in mind than just a test or even an interim solution but possibly a “replacement” for the previous spyware programs used by the authority.

    Late last year, the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), a well-known German hacker group, revealed that the so-called “Bundestrojaner,” or “Federal Trojan,” went beyond it legal restrictions of wiretapping and surveillance of a target computer. The spyware also had the capability to record keystrokes, take screenshots and activate a computer’s webcam and microphone. […]

    Numerous privacy experts frequently warn of the dangers of improperly audited spyware.

    “The potential for abuse in the hands of low-level law enforcement is extraordinarily high, given the limits of any possible oversight mechanisms,” Eric King, human rights and technology adviser at Privacy International, told Deutsche Welle in an e-mail response.

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