Today, I received a letter from Emsisoft that explained how a well known group of hackers in Germany discovered and tested a trojan program that’s used by the German Federal government to spy on its citizens. These white hat hackers, known as the Computer Chaos Club, determined that the “R2D2” or “State Trojan” is not only able to spy on an infected target computer, it’s also able to download more software and remotely control the target computer. So far, it’s designed to work only on Windows based PCs.
Back in 2008, Computerworld reported that WikiLeaks documents provided information that Germany had hired a company named “Digitask” to create a trojan spy program for them. A few days ago, ZDnet was confirming that a few of the German State agencies have admitted to using this trojan in their investigations. Naturally, these were “legal” uses of the trojan, and required a judge’s signature.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation was curious to see if the U.S. Government had similar trojans, and in 2008, they submitted a FOIA request. Unlike many other attempts to get information released, the EFF received documents that revealed how the FBI was investigating ways to intercept Skype conversations. I think we can assume that since then, the U.S. has done more than just “investigate” how to spy on Skype.
What does all of this mean to the average Windows user? It means that you not only have to worry about threats from the usual hackers after your money, you also have to worry about “Big Brother” trojans from your own government. Fortunately, companies like Emsisoft, F-Secure and Sophos have assured us that they intend to search and elimate government trojans as well as the typical spyware we’re used to seeing.
For those of you who are using Macintosh or Linux instead of Windows, feel free to stick out your tongue and say “na na na na na na“. You don’t have to worry about these trojans … for now.