German cops are pushing ahead with controversial plans, yet to be legally approved, to develop “remote forensic software” - in other words, a law enforcement Trojan.
Leaked documents outline proposals by German firm Digitask to develop software to intercept Skype VoIP communications and SSL transmissions. A second leaked document from the Bavarian Ministry of Justice outlines costing and licensing proposals for the software. Both scanned documents (in German, natch) have found their way onto the net after being submitted to Wikileaks.
As previously reported, the German government is looking to recruit coders to develop “white hat” malware capable of covertly hacking into the PCs of suspects in investigations of terrorism or other serious crimes.
Proposals to give explicit permission for law enforcement officials to plant malware stem from a Federal Court ruling last year declaring clandestine searches of suspects’ computers to be inadmissible as evidence, pending a law regulating the practice. Germany’s Federal Court of Justice said the practice was not covered by existing surveillance legislation.
Joerg Ziercke, president of Germany’s Federal Police Office (BKA), expressed frustration about their inability to decipher the encryption used by Skype in order to tap into the VoIP calls of suspected terrorists. Digitask, if the leaked documents are to be believed, has stepped into the breach.
Skype is widely used by consumers to make VoIP calls. The firm has commissioned security experts to audit the encryption and security of its software.
However, other experts have contested the security of Skype’s software. Skype uses widely trusted encryption techniques, such as Advanced Encryption Standard, to encrypt conversations and RSA for key negotiation. But unlike Zfone, its source code has not been publicly released.