German spy software scandal focuses on Bavaria
Oct 10, 2011, 15:38 GMT
Berlin - Officials in the southern German state of Bavaria Monday confirmed that their agencies were the ones that had made use of a controversial spyware programme that has created an uproar across the country since the weekend.
The allegations, brought up over the weekend by the Chaos Computer Club, an organization of hackers, have left officials trying to figure out who would have authorized software that not only gathers transmitted data, but opens a back door to let investigators install further spyware on an unsuspecting computer.
The allegations dominated headlines in Germany Monday, as the software semi-officially came to be known as the 'State Trojan.'
Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann late Monday released a statement confirming that state officials had indeed used the software, but argued that the use had been conducted legally.
Nonetheless, he promised a review of the software's use by a variety of inspectors, including the state's appointee on data security.
'Independently, our specialists will continue with intensive testing,' said Herrmann, adding that the data security official, Thomas Petri, would check the 'technical specifications' of the measures and whether their use was 'consistent with legal requirements.'
The programme had been used in 2009, he said.
That provided some clarity after an Interior Ministry spokesman had earlier said the software in question was three years old and had never been put into use on a federal level. While ruling out that ministry, it had not ruled out other agencies - Customs, for example - that do not fall under the purview of the Interior Ministry.
Attention had turned to Bavaria after a lawyer said his client had had the software in question installed on his computer during a customs check.
That software, which could be legally used for monitoring telecommunications, had been altered to allow it to grab screen shots off the computer, argued lawyer Patrick Schladt in an online post.
'Even if the measures were under the purview of Bavarian officials, there is no question for me that parts of the federal government - customs, or even customs police - played a role.'
He further argued that the Chaos Club had found the software up and running on multiple computers across the country.
Federal government spokesman Steffen Seibert said any use of such technology was clearly illegal and would be investigated.
'We are taking (the allegations) very seriously,' he said. 'We will need to check all systems thoroughly.'
The statement came as a variety of politicians were decrying the invasion of privacy and the misuse of investigative tools. Several legislators promised committee investigations into the matter.