Hackers Claim That German Officials Have A Backdoor Trojan For Spying On Skype… Which Is A Huge Security Risk

from the breaking-the-internet dept

For many years various governments have complained about the fact that Skype communications are encrypted, and have demanded backdoors. In the US, the FBI has been pushing hard for such backdoors. There have been some reports of applications that allow for wiretapping Skype, despite its supposed encryption, but not much in the way of details. Now the famed Chaos Computer Club (CCC) is claiming to have reverse engineered the “lawful interception” trojan being used by German law enforcement.

They got the program after a lawyer whose client was under investigation gave the CCC his client’s hard drive, where the group found the code. As frequently happens with these kinds of things, the CCC found that the trojan actually introduces myriad security problems as well:

The analysis concludes, that the trojan’s developers never even tried to put in technical safeguards to make sure the malware can exclusively be used for wiretapping internet telephony, as set forth by the constitution court. On the contrary, the design included functionality to clandestinely add more components over the network right from the start, making it a bridge-head to further infiltrate the computer.

“This refutes the claim that an effective separation of just wiretapping internet telephony and a full-blown trojan is possible in practice ? or even desired,” commented a CCC speaker. “Our analysis revealed once again that law enforcement agencies will overstep their authority if not watched carefully. 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.”

The government malware can, unchecked by a judge, load extensions by remote control, to use the trojan for other functions, including but not limited to eavesdropping. This complete control over the infected PC ? owing to the poor craftsmanship that went into this trojan ? is open not just to the agency that put it there, but to everyone. It could even be used to upload falsified “evidence” against the PC’s owner, or to delete files, which puts the whole rationale for this method of investigation into question.


The analysis also revealed serious security holes that the trojan is tearing into infected systems. The screenshots and audio files it sends out are encrypted in an incompetent way, the commands from the control software to the trojan are even completely unencrypted. Neither the commands to the trojan nor its replies are authenticated or have their integrity protected. Not only can unauthorized third parties assume control of the infected system, but even attackers of mediocre skill level can connect to the authorities, claim to be a specific instance of the trojan, and upload fake data. It is even conceivable that the law enforcement agencies’s IT infrastructure could be attacked through this channel. The CCC has not yet performed a penetration test on the server side of the trojan infrastructure.

“We were surprised and shocked by the lack of even elementary security in the code. Any attacker could assume control of a computer infiltrated by the German law enforcement authorities”, commented a speaker of the CCC. “The security level this trojan leaves the infected systems in is comparable to it setting all passwords to ‘1234’”.

Even without the fact that more capabilities can be added, the existing software is pretty powerful. It apparently can remotely control the computers that it’s on, take screenshots of what’s happening on the computer, including emails and personal messages. And yet, time and time again law enforcement asks us to “trust” them when they want the power to secretly install this kind of crap on people’s computers?

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Companies: skype

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Comments on “Hackers Claim That German Officials Have A Backdoor Trojan For Spying On Skype… Which Is A Huge Security Risk”

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Anonymous Coward says:

“could” is a long way from “does”.

Unintentional functionality cannot be attributed to malice. The writers try to make it sound like the German government is using a hack to completely open the system for their benefit. I don’t think that was their intention, or that they are even aware of any functionality beyond what they asked for originally.

RTFA says:

Re: Re:

Perhaps you missed this when you were perusing the CCC’s release:

When arguing about the government authorized infiltration of computers and secretly scanning suspects’ hard drives, the former minister of the interior Wolfgang Sch?uble and J?rg Ziercke, BKA’s president (BKA, German federal policy agency), have always claimed that the population should not worry because there would only be “a handful” of cases where the trojan would be used at all. Either almost the complete set of government malware has found their way in brown envelopes to the CCC’s mailbox, or the truth has been leapfrogged once again by the reality of eavesdropping and “lawful interception”.

The other promises made by the officials also are not basis in reality. In 2008 the CCC was told that all versions of the “Quellen-TK?” software would manually be hand-crafted for the specifics of each case. The CCC now has access to several software versions of the trojan, and they all use the same hard-coded cryptographic key and do not look hand-crafted at all. Another promise has been that the trojan would be subject to exceptionally strict quality control to make sure the rules set forth by the constitutional court would not be violated. In reality this exceptionally strict quality control has neither found that the key is hard coded, nor that the “encryption” is uni-directional only, nor that there is a back door for uploading and executing further malware. The CCC expressed hope that this farce is not representative for exceptionally strict quality control in federal agencies.

The functionality is there, it is/was likely being abused. I would *love* to expect more from a government agency…but that is simply impossible. Time and time again if you give law enforcement/government an inch and tell them they cant do certain things it is only a short time later that it comes out that they redoubled their efforts after being told not to do such things.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Unintentional functionality cannot be attributed to malice.

Have you ever analyzed any code?

I’m just asking, because I’d like to hear your explanation for how entire functions that implement these capabilities just happen to “accidentally” end up in there. Do you think perhaps an errant cut-and-paste? Or that some random typing is responsible? Maybe the authors were just trying to write something else and it spontaneously mutated. Yep, that must be it; no way any government would craft malware designed to exceed their authority or to facilitate easy entrapment.

Trails (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Unintentional functionality cannot be attributed to malice.”

Unintentional? How so? They meant to write System.out.println(“hello world”); but due to a typo, they wrote an executable extension framework? Given that at least some of this stuff isn’t attributable to stupidity, but demonstrates intent, there is at least some unarguable malice.

“The writers try to make it sound like the German government is using a hack to completely open the system for their benefit.”

Let me explain something clearly: the German government is using a hack to completely open the system for their benefit. This is like installing a GPS tracker on a car that can also be used to remotely control the car by anyone with a cell phone. It is negligent in the extreme, at best.

“I don’t think that was their intention, or that they are even aware of any functionality beyond what they asked for originally.”

And you base this on their requirements doc and the technical design they reviewed and approve, which you of course have access to? You make a lot of assumptions about their intent. Where does this come from?

techflaws.org (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Unintentional functionality cannot be attributed to malice.

It isn’t unintentional but intentional and unconstituitonal. The German consitution court ruled that intercepting (VOIP) phone calls at the source (before being encrypted by the Skype client) is allowed but that’s all.

The thousands of screenshots taken by the trojan in that particular case were done so illegally but purposefully.

In a radio interview the head of the German police union (GDP) insisted that there was a gap in the law that would allow this albeit the ruling is crystal clear.

Zaynah says:

Cyber War

I was on MUSLIMA dot com.
I received 2 Letters of correspondence from HIGH RANK Government officials. One US the other UK . The UK Officials contacted me Via skype . From here the exploit goes into the Laptop as a trojan exploit and possibly plants evidence there. Has all the footprints of the Israelis . Cover your asses folks. Politicians not voting to their likes find themselves prosecuted for haveing Child porn on their PC . or worse yet… a meltdown.

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