The use of so-called “Trojan horse” software by authorities in a number of German states came to light after the Computer Chaos Club, a hacker group, published details of their examination of spyware planted on a laptop in Bavaria.
It found that the software — developed by a private company called DigiTask for the Bavarian police — was capable of much more than just monitoring internet phone calls. It could take screenshots, remotely add files and control a computer’s microphone or webcam to monitor the person’s home. However, the authorities insist that they did not deploy these functions. Investigations are ongoing.
Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant with British computer security firm Sophos, which also analyzed the software, said that the spyware could “automatically update itself over the internet, so new functionality can be added. It can be used to install new software onto the computer, so people could actually alter the contents of a suspect’s hard drive.”
The scandal has led politicians and security experts to look at whether the country’s already stringent privacy laws need firming up.