German Government Accused of Online Spying

Dennis Faas's picture

A group of German hacking enthusiasts says the country's government is unlawfully spying on people online. It says officials are secretly using a monitoring tool in a way not authorized by the courts.

The accusations come from the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), a group of hackers who seek to find creative and unconventional uses for technology rather than merely causing disruption by illegally accessing data.

Ironically, that's exactly what they say the German government is doing. The claims involve Bundestrojaner, a government-run application that is effectively a Trojan horse, software that can be spread to a user's computer without their knowledge.

Officially, Bundestrojaner is only used for monitoring Skype conversations, and only when such use has been authorized in the same way as if officials got permission to monitor phone calls made by criminal suspects.

Remote Access Privileges Abused

However, the CCC says it has analyzed the software and discovered it contains several other components, including the ability to download and install new pieces of software, as well as the ability to access any microphones and web cameras used on the computer at any time.

CCC says the software can take screenshots of the computer, giving the government access to all kinds of personal information. (Source:

Chaos Computer Club claims that Bundestrojaner must have been set up to allow these illegal functions to be added. "In this case functions clearly intended for breaking the law were implemented in this malware: they were meant for uploading and executing arbitrary code on the targeted system," said CCC spokesperson.

Software May Have Been Hijacked

The group also warns that the modified software also creates a security risk. If criminals were able to access it, they would be able to take advantage of the ability to track a user's activities and possibly even add their own spying applications.

Several third-party security experts have examined the software and concluded that it does indeed have the features described by CCC. However, they've been unable to confirm the copy in question was indeed written by the German government, leaving the possibility it may have been compromised by criminals. (Source:

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