German Gov't Inadvertently Reveals Police Monitor Gmail, Skype, Facebook & Use Snooping Malware

from the did-we-really-tell-them-that? dept

Transparency is worth having for itself, since governments often tend to behave a little better when they know that someone is watching. But occasionally, requests for data turn up something big and totally unexpected because someone failed to notice quite what the information provided implies.

Here’s a great example spotted by the annalist blog, which reports on a parliamentary enquiry about expenditures by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, responsible for internal security. What was probably thought to be no more than a few dozen pages of boring and thus safe figures turned out to reveal something quite shocking:

The German ministry for home affairs and thus the German police clearly state that they are monitoring Skype, Google Mail, MSN Hotmail, Yahoo Mail and Facebook chat if deemed necessary. Money is spent on trojan viruses and we can be quite certain which company produces the IMSI catchers [used for “man-in-the-middle” attacks on mobile phones] used by German police.

It’s been known for a year that the German police forces have been using malware to spy on citizens via their computers, but the latest revelations about surveillance activity go far beyond that. It confirms that even in countries where people are very sensitive about privacy, Internet snooping by the police is routine. It also emphasizes, once more, the importance of encrypting your communication channels where possible, and avoiding those where it isn’t.

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Comments on “German Gov't Inadvertently Reveals Police Monitor Gmail, Skype, Facebook & Use Snooping Malware”

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33 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

and i thought that Germany, after what happened 70ish years ago, would have been a bit more careful concerning who is watching who and how to prevent anyone from finding out. mind you, given the way Merkel performs, it thinks it is the ‘super country’ all over again. it needs to remember that sooner or later, all things change. those dishing out harsh orders atm can easily be on the receiving end tomorrow. the way they treat others atm can determine how they are treated when roles are reversed!

Alex says:

is someone looking for attention?

oh oh techdirt – I thought the summer slump was over already πŸ˜‰

This this post is a little exaggerated. The report just states to which private companies the “spying” is outsourced. The german gvt is forced by law to check wether it is cheaper to outsource certain services or to get the job done by an gvt-owned agency.

In fact the title of this post is more than missleading. It’s no secret that “the gvt” is spying on ppl. But only when a judge allowed it. And this is the same in most countries (maybe not neccessary in the U.S. πŸ˜‰ ). Every single service you mentioned in you post title has eventually clearly stated that they cooperate with law enforcement agencies. if a judge orders that the spying on the person X is ok, the law enforcement agencies ask the service which they think is used by the suspect to do “bad things” to monitor him / get his data. Or, if it is encrypted or to complicated to get the data (e. g. facebook, skype) the intercept the transmission. and this interception is mostly done by private comapnies (Digitask for example)

the report is more or less about budgets and how much of the tax payers money was spend on what.

nothing in this report is “new” – it all has been revealed years ago.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: is someone looking for attention?

Where it has been revealed? And while I do agree that there may be surveillance allowed by warrants how much of that was actually abiding by the law? I may not be that knowledgeable regarding German law but even if you accept that most of these initiatives are legal we still have the use of trojan/malware which I don’t believe it’s legal in any way.

It’s not just stating financial data, it’s showing that Germany spies on Internet services. A lot.

Seems enough for me to draw attention.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: is someone looking for attention?

Further, this line is amusing:

‘It also emphasizes, once more, the importance of encrypting your communication channels where possible, and avoiding those where it isn’t.’

My suggestion? Stop breaking the law. Then you have nothing to worry about. If you need encryption to feel secure from law enforcement, then you have a pretty guilty attitude.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: is someone looking for attention?

That “got sumfin’ to hide” very US-simpleton stance is so worn out. And almost exclusively used as a blanket statement to justify unauthorized abuse by government bodies. It’s such a sound democracy 101 that mecanisms must ensure the government is kept in check as a preventive measure to their very nature of perpetual increased control.

Your comment is without a doubt setting you on the side of the proponents of a total surveillance society. A totaliterian to the likes of the ex-communist countries…

Alex says:

Re: Re: Re: is someone looking for attention?

I’m definitely not a proponent of total surveillance! But it is know that these services are monitored if “deemed necessary”.

You always have means that you can avoid being monitored. OTR, TOR, PGP S/MIME etc.

So somehow its a good thing that you now that there is the chance that you beeing spyied on, so you don’t rope in sand (? direct translation from the german saying) thinking “hey it’s safe here, we can do what we want”.

Gregg says:

Re: is someone looking for attention?

Hi Alex

You’re wrong. They are reading and accessing everything that everyone is doing without the courts authority and without warrants. That should not be legal and on the letter of the laws, it actually is not legal. So if you want to be a pawn go ahead. Frankly I don’t want to be a pawn or a prawn. I don’t want the Government snooping in my house. It’s not a question of what I have to hide, it’s call privacy! That’s all that needs to be said!

Did Americans forget their bill of rights?

Alex says:

It has been revelead through leaked documents (digitask); 3 or 4 years ago a letter from the the bavarian gvt. was leaked, in which they argued with some other agencies who has to pay what percentake from an invoice they received from digitask to monitor end decrypt skype conversations from a suspect.

also the trojan horse / malware thing has been legal for some time, then skipped or limited by the federal constitutional court, than made legal again in a different law (for the “bka” = federal criminal agaency) under certain limitations. you always have to obey some kind of “inner circle or core area of private life” where they have to shut of the surveillance when you talk about this stuff (however it is no hard-coded what this core area is)

as a german citizen which is familiar with the whole matter, believe me, nothing of this is new … if it was it would have drawn a lot of attention when the report was released

Brain Fart- Silent but deadly says:

We are all sleeping. Dazed in a world where we think the only thing we have available is to work for the company and still continue to worry about how to pay the mortgage. Don’t even think about retirement, it’s just too stressful.

Wake up, there is no problem other than the new kingdom that we have completely missed being built around us. What are there, maybe 5 corporations that run just about every facet of goods and services? Why does food increase in prices exponentially? Wages are at a standstill, hiring is frozen, equipment has replaced low paid workers, gas has gone up under the guise of fear. Yeah, actually, none of that has anything to do with food increasing in prices. I still pay the worms the same amount to fertilize the soil. I pay the sun the same to give warmth.

C’mon now, be a good dog and go to work, get locked into a single career path. Get more work loaded onto you, by far, compared to previous generation in your same line….but get paid unreasonably low based on inflation. Quit your bitching, and be a good dog. How else can the corporations attain record profits if they don’t keep you in shackles of credit card debt, hangman’s noose of taxes used to pay for the infirmed (who need it), the leeches who will never work a day and the upper level greed who will only be happy when they own everything.

Oh, wait, they are attaining record profits. Just don’t rock the boat, if people found how…it could be bad for business.

So, yes, they’ll be listening more and more. The worst thing that could happen is if we, the cows, realize that there’s an opening in the fence….. we just may get out of this tainted field and get back to just being cows standing around eating grass and existing.

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