How Does The FBI's Spyware Get Around Security Software?
from the cloak-and-dagger-or-point-and-click dept
A teenager in Washington state got sentenced to 90 days in juvenile detention this week, after he plead guilty to making some bomb threats via e-mail to a high school. It turns out that the FBI nabbed him with a piece of spyware called the Computer and Internet Protocol Address Verifier, or CIPAV. The FBI used the spyware after it had obtained server logs from Google and MySpace, which gave them an IP address that led to an infected computer in Italy. This isn't too surprising, really, but what makes it a little more intriguing is that it's not clear how the FBI slipped the program onto the kid's computer, nor how it evaded detection by anti-virus software. The most likely possibility is that they took advantage of some unpatched vulnerability on the kid's PC, with a browser or plug-in hole exploited by a MySpace web message. The question of evading security software looms larger, though, with CNet's Declan McCullagh wondering if the government persuaded security software vendors to whitelist CIPAV. He said that some vendors said they'd comply with court orders to ignore government or police spyware, and that McAfee and Microsoft wouldn't say if that's what had, in fact, happened here. Meanwhile, Kevin Poulsen over at Wired says that a more likely (and less controversial) explanation is that without ever seeing CIPAV, security software vendors can't make a signature for it, so their systems can detect it.