German police use R2D2 Skype trojan

Bavaria admits using it since 2009

Bavaria and several other German states have admitted that their police have used the so-called “R2D2” Federal Trojan to spy on suspects during investigations.

Interior ministries from the states of Bade-Württemberg, Brandenburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony on Tuesday followed Bavaria's Monday lead in confirming their police had used trojans like the sample that hackers at the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) pulled apart and detailed last weekend, according to Deutsche Welle.

Brandenberg authorities told German media the trojan was being used in a current investigation, while the interior ministry of North Rhine-Westphalia admitted to using spyware in two cases involving serious drug crimes, but said the actions were approved by a judge.

According to the report, Bavarian authorities confirmed they had been using spyware since 2009.

The admissions follow the CCC's claim that the trojan it analysed went far beyond bypassing the encryption of web telecommunications tools like Skype and that it was poorly secured.

The trojan was capable of eavesdropping on conversations over Skype, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger, as well as logging keystrokes in several browsers, take JPEG screenshots and record Skype audio calls.

Despite claims by authorities that its use as a lawful intercept tool was legitimate, Federal Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has called for a joint state and federal investigation into the spyware’s use.

Federal authorities claim not have to used the program.

Finnish security company F-Secure has revealed details of the installer for the program, “scuinst.exe”, an abbreviation for “Skype Capture Unit Installer”, that would be used to place the trojan on a suspect’s computer.

Supposed details of the Skype Capture Unit (SCU) have previously been released by WikiLeaks, detailing a 2007 negotiation between Bavarian police and prosecutors over the cost of a Skype interception service provided by German software company Digitask.

According to the file, SCU could be installed through the delivery of an executable file by email or installed directly on the target machine. Digitask was allegedly asking for a 3,500 euro per month rental fee for each installation and a further 2,500 euros to install and remove it.

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