Clueless Spanish Politicians Want To Join The Government Malware Club

from the dedicated-follower-of-fashion dept

As we’ve noted before, when it comes to the Internet, governments around the world have an unfortunate habit of copying each other’s worst ideas. Thus the punitive three-strikes approach based on accusations, not proof, was pioneered by France, and then spread to the UK, South Korea, New Zealand and finally the US (where, naturally, it became the bigger and better “six strikes” scheme). France appears to be about to abandon this unworkable and ineffective approach, leaving other countries to deal with all the problems it has since discovered.

Now there seems to be a new craze amongst ill-informed policy-makers: the use of government-sanctioned malware to spy on citizens. We wrote about Germany’s trojan software back in October last year. Australia‘s spies want the same capability, and New Europe is reporting that Spain too is planning to pass a law that will allow its police to install malware on the systems of citizens:

According to the article 350 of the proposed draft, prosecutors may ask the judge for “the installation of a software that allows the remote examination and without knowledge of the owner of the content in computers, electronical devices, computer systems, instruments of massive storage or databases.”

The key concern raised for similar projects of other countries applies here too: intentionally placing malware on computers increases the risk that others will be able to take control of those systems thanks to vulnerabilities in the code. That’s no theoretical issue, as evidenced by major flaws discovered in Germany’s trojan software. But it turns out that Spain’s proposed malware scheme has an additional bad idea:

Furthermore, the article 351 of the text explains that official agents may require cooperation from “anyone who knows the operation of the computer system or measures applied in order to protect data held there”. This means that Spanish authorities might require services from experts, “hackers” or computer companies.

Clearly that could be applied to Google or Facebook, say, which might be forced to provide user passwords or maybe even actively cooperate in attempts to infect a user’s system. Given the current revelations about Internet companies’ complicity in spying on huge numbers of people around the world, there seems little reason to hope that they would refuse to do so, despite protestations to the contrary, even if they — unlike the Spanish politicians proposing this law — understood the extreme stupidity of this approach.

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Comments on “Clueless Spanish Politicians Want To Join The Government Malware Club”

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Anonymous Coward says:

so, it’s an offence to infect a computer with malware or similar, but ok for the government to do it! that nearly makes sense. so what happens when malware of some sort gets on to a computer belonging to a government official then, installed by a competitor of one sort or another? i dont suppose it will be revealed until well after the ‘infection’ has been neutralized and whatever damage done has been well and truly covered up. however, i think an ‘official’ machine will be one of the first to be caught, once it is apparent that this malware is around. and bloody good job too! i still wonder at how we manage to always vote complete fucking numbskulls into such important positions!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: process now for a pc desktop

Why put a pirated OS on it? That gains you nothing in terms of security and potentially opens you up to further mischief, depending on where you got the pirated OS. Not to mention being the wrong thing to do for a few other reasons.

You have numerous options for nonpirated, safer, better operating systems that you can maintain control over.

Also, you should have a solid tripwire system on your computers to spot any unwanted tampering with your files, and the most restrictive firewall you can stand so if some malware does infect your system it will have problems phoning home.

Chris Brand says:

Trigger for "Reasonable doubt" ?

If I was prosecuted for something using evidence obtained in this way, I’d use the fact that there was software that I had not installed, was unaware of, and had no control over to show reasonable doubt that I was actually responsible for whatever was done on the machine. Who’s to say that the malware itself, or somebody (intentionally or otherwise) in control of it didn’t do whatever the bad deed is ?

Seegras (profile) says:

Broken chain of evidence

I’m completely baffled why _law enforcement agencies_ are backing these hare-brained schemes.

Any forensic technician can tell you, that with such malware on a computer, you’ve got a broken chain of evidence. You cannot prove anymore that the user of that computer was actually committing a crime. It could just as well been perpetrated by the agent controlling the malware.

So any government installed malware is completely, utterly, unusable for law enforcement purposes.

Of course, intelligence agencies give a damn about any chains of evidence; so they might like it.

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