This telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication - Western Union memo, 1876
LAW ENFORCEMENT AUTHORITIES from several German states have confirmed using special computer software for intelligence gathering purposes during criminal investigations.
According to Zeit Online, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann admitted that the trojan recently discovered by the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) was used by the state's Office of Criminal Investigation in the past.
The trojan is believed to have been created by a German software and telecommunications company called Digitask, which, judging by documents leaked online, caters to the surveillance needs of law enforcement agencies.
According to Der Spiegel, the Bavarian state police couldn't confirm if the version analyzed by the CCC is the same one used during its investigations, but noted that the malware has a modular architecture that allows its operators to add particular functionality on a case by case basis, as established by the corresponding court orders.
However, a Landshut-based lawyer named Patrick Schladt reports that authorities have overstepped legal boundaries before while using such software.
According to Schladt, customs officials installed a trojan on one of his client's laptops while he passed through the Munich Airport back in 2009. The trojan took thousands of screenshots of the targeted individual's Firefox browser, an action that the Landshut District Court later ruled unlawful.
As noted by the CCC, back in 2008 the German Constitutional Court established restrictions for the lawful interception of Internet-based phone calls, restrictions that the functionality of the newly identified trojan clearly violates.
The problem doesn't seem to be confined to the state of Bavaria, since, according to Deutsche Welle, the interior ministers of Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg and Lower Saxony have also confirmed that local authorities have used such software. µ
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