Germany. Calls for “Less Democracy”: Police Caught Planting Spyware on Personal Computers

Germany. Calls for “Less Democracy”: Police Caught Planting Spyware on Personal Computers
German secret state agencies installing spyware capable of transforming PC webcam and microphone into listening device

MERKALS EAST GERMAN COMMIE TRAINING IN VIEW!!
OCT 16TH 2011

by Tom Burghardt

Revelations by the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) that German secret state agencies are installing spyware on personal computers capable of transforming a PC’s webcam and microphone into a listening device, sparked outrage across the political spectrum.

It has since emerged that despite legal requirements that police do so only with a warrant and only if surveillance intercepts are used to prevent threats to “life, limb or liberty,” authorities are not complying with strict limits laid down by Germany’s Supreme Court.

And while these disclosures may have ignited a political firestorm in Berlin, they will come as no surprise to readers of Antifascist Calling.

Three years ago, I reported that Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst or BND, was caught up in a major scandal after the whistleblowing web site WikiLeaks, published documents which revealed that the agency had extensively spied on, and even recruited, journalists for use in illicit intelligence operations.

Recalling the CIA’s long-running Operation Mockingbird program that enrolled journalists as spies in what are now euphemistically called “influence operations,” the covert manipulation of the domestic and foreign press according to WikiLeaks, showed “the extent to which the collaboration of journalists with intelligence agencies has become common and to what dimensions consent is manufactured in the interests of those involved.”

BBC News reported that “Bavaria has admitted using the spyware, but claimed it had acted within the law.” And Deutsche Welle disclosed that “several additional German states have admitted to deploying spyware,” including “Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony,” but like their counterparts in Bavaria, those officials also claimed they had operated “within the parameters of the law”

As I have written many times, the secret state is bound by their own set of “laws.” Normal rules and procedures which are supposed to protect citizens from unwarranted government intrusions are deemed inoperative for reasons of “national security.”

In the United States, constitutional protections designed to guarantee the right of citizens to protest, enjoy a modicum of privacy in their daily lives or, at the most basic level, have their day in court before being executed, have been overthrown by two successive administrations who assert the right to conduct the affairs of state in secret, according to a set of legal guidelines which are unreviewable by any court.

It would appear that similar moves are underway in Germany.

‘Backdoor Functionality’

The Chaos Computer Club revealed in their analysis that when they reverse engineered the program, variously dubbed “0zapftis”, “Bundestrojaner” or “R2D2,” they discovered that the spyware “found in the wild” and “submitted to the CCC anonymously,” can “not only siphon away intimate data but also offers a remote control or backdoor functionality for uploading and executing arbitrary other programs. Significant design and implementation flaws make all of the functionality available to anyone on the internet.”

Club researchers learned that “the trojan’s developers never even tried to put in technical safeguards to make sure the malware can exclusively be used for wiretapping internet telephony, as set forth by the constitution court. On the contrary, the design included functionality to clandestinely add more components over the network right from the start, making it a bridge-head to further infiltrate the computer.”

“The government malware can,” analysts noted, “unchecked by a judge, load extensions by remote control, to use the trojan for other functions, including but not limited to eavesdropping.”

“This complete control over the infected PC, is open not just to the agency that put it there, but to everyone. It could even be used to upload falsified ‘evidence’ against the PC’s owner, or to delete files, which puts the whole rationale for this method of investigation into question.”

Their study also “revealed serious security holes that the trojan is tearing into infected systems. The screenshots and audio files it sends out are encrypted in an incompetent way, the commands from the control software to the trojan are even completely unencrypted. Neither the commands to the trojan nor its replies are authenticated or have their integrity protected.”

“We were surprised and shocked by the lack of even elementary security in the code. Any attacker could assume control of a computer infiltrated by the German law enforcement authorities,” a CCC spokesperson commented. “The security level this trojan leaves the infected systems in is comparable to it setting all passwords to ‘1234’.”

Nothing ‘Magical’ about this ‘Lantern’

There are glaring similarities between the “R2D2” package deployed by German police and “Magic Lantern” software used by the FBI. As with Bureau spyware, the German program is a keystroke logging virus installed via a malicious email attachment or by exploiting operating system vulnerabilities.

When news of the FBI program first broke back in 2000, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) obtained documents under a Freedom of Information Act request relating to the system, which were part of a suite of surveillance tools then called Carnivore.

At the time, EPIC revealed that the FBI “had developed an Internet monitoring system that would be installed at the facilities of an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and would monitor all traffic moving through that ISP.”

Once a user is spoofed into installing the malicious Trojan, it is activated when PGP encryption is used to enhance email security. When switched on, the Trojan will log the PGP password which will then allow the agents to read the encrypted communications unbeknownst to the sender. Since its first iteration in the 1990s, such programs are exponentially more sophisticated and are now capable of scooping-up virtually everything a user stores on a computer or handset.

A 2007 exposé by Wired Magazine revealed that Magic Lantern’s “computer and internet protocol address verifier” or CIPAV, “gathers a wide range of information, including the computer’s IP address; MAC address; open ports; a list of running programs; the operating system type, version and serial number; preferred internet browser and version; the computer’s registered owner and registered company name; the current logged-in user name and the last-visited URL.”

And once that data was obtained, it was siphoned-off to the Bureau’s technology laboratory in Quantico, Virginia via fiber optic splitter cables.

As whistleblower Babak Pasdar revealed in 2008, following earlier disclosures by AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein, Verizon, and other giant telecommunications firms, including AT&T, maintained a high-speed DS-3 digital line that handed the Bureau and other security agencies “unfettered” access to the carrier’s wireless network, including billing records and customer data “transmitted wirelessly.”

Just after the scandal broke, Wired Magazine disclosed that “two years before the Bavarian state in Germany began using a controversial spy tool to gather evidence from suspect computers, German authorities approached the Federal Bureau of Investigation to discuss a similar tool the U.S. law enforcement agency was using.”

“Bavarian authorities,” Wired reported, “began using their spyware in 2009. It’s not known if that spyware is based on the FBI’s, but in July 2007, German authorities contacted the FBI seeking information about its tool.”

The FBI’s assistant legal attache in Frankfurt “sent an email to Bureau colleagues on July 24, 2007, writing, ‘I am embarrassed to be approaching you again with a request from the Germans … but they now have asked us about CIPAV (Computer Internet Protocol Address Verifier) software, allegedly used by the Bu[reau]’.”

The email uncovered by Wired was part of a huge cache of files obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in response to their 2007 Freedom of Information Act request for data on CIPAV.

In the years since those disclosures, secret state surveillance is more pervasive than ever and and now includes the “lawful interception” of GPS locational data streamed automatically to their manufacturers or hosting services by smart phones.

It appears that German secret state officials are playing a similar game. According to Der Spiegel, at least two agencies, the Bundeskriminalamt, or BKA, the federal crime investigation agency equivalent to the FBI, and some 16 Landeskriminalamt or LKAs, regional investigative bureaus, may have deployed the malware during wide-ranging investigations unrelated to terrorism.

Following Chaos Computer Club revelations, it is clear that German authorities have been caught red-handed violating a landmark decision by the Supreme Court. “The court,” Der Spiegel noted, “specified that online spying was only permissible if there was concrete evidence of danger to individuals or society.”

In a follow-up piece, Der Spiegel disclosed that the firm DigiTask was the spyware’s developer. Along with hundreds of similar firms, DigiTask is a niche security outfit that develops applications for the so-called “lawful interception” market.

In 2008, WikiLeaks released two documents concerning “interception technology for Skype and SSL in Bavaria, Germany. The first document is a communication by the Bavarian Ministry of Justice to the prosecutors office, relating to cost distribution for the interception licenses between police and prosecution. The second document allegedly presents the offer made by Digitask, the German company developing the technology, and holds information on pricing and license model, high-level technology descriptions and other detail.”

According to the WikiLeaks analysis, the DigiTask offer “introduces a basic description of the cryptographic workings of Skype, and concludes that new systems are needed to spy on Skype calls.”

We were informed in that letter that German police were interested in standing-up a “Skype Capture Unit.”

“In a nutshell: malware is installed onto a target machine, to intercept Skype Voice and Chat. Another feature introduced is a recording proxy, that is not part of the offer, yet would allow for anonymous proxying of recorded information to a target recording station. Access to the recording station is possible via a multimedia streaming client, supposedly offering real-time interception.”

“Another part of the offer,” WikiLeaks noted, was related to “an interception method for SSL based communication, working on the same principle of establishing a man-in-the-middle attack on the key material on the client machine. According to the offer, this method works for Internet Explorer and Firefox web browsers. Digitask also recommends using overseas proxy servers, to cover the tracks of all activities.”

As it turns out those proxy servers were conveniently located in the United States. This raises the distinct possibility that information captured by German secret state officials is also being shared with “partner agencies” of their close NATO ally, the CIA, FBI and NSA.

This was confirmed by CCC’s analysis of R2D2’s code. “To avoid the location of the command and control server, all data is redirected through a rented dedicated server in a data center in the USA. The control of this malware is only partially within the borders of its jurisdiction.”

“Considering the incompetent encryption and the missing digital signatures on the command channel, this poses an unacceptable and incalculable risk. It also poses the question how a citizen is supposed to get their right of legal redress in the case the wiretapping data get lost outside Germany, or the command channel is misused.”

The short answer is, they can’t.

Aside from lining the pockets of DigiTask shareholders, there are more sinister uses for the malware. As the World Socialist Web Site noted “the remote-control function could be used to load and execute malicious software, and to plant bogus digital evidence on the computer, which can then be detected if the computer was seized. A suspect would have no way of proving that this had happened.”

This would certainly be a convenient way to “neutralize” a troublesome politician, journalist or over-eager anticorporate campaigner.

‘Less Democracy’

Following similar efforts in the United States, evidence that police are illegally spying on German citizens using sophisticated malware developed for the government are neither benign nor accidental events.

As a recent article in German Foreign Policy disclosed, leading voices in Europe’s largest state are “pleading for a transition toward ‘less democracy’.” A recent book, published under the title, Dare Less Democracy, claims that the “voice of the people” and the “’emancipatory Zeitgeist, putting everything into question,’ has a too ‘paralyzing influence” on current governance’.”

“The author,” the critical online leftist magazine observes, “demands to ‘correct the system’ for ‘more efficient policy making.’ These ‘corrections’ must include the dismantlement of democratic participation.”

Author Laszlo Trankovits, the bureau chief of the Deutsche Presse Agentur in South Africa, who had previously worked for the agency in Washington “as its White House correspondent,” explained “it should never be suggested that a ‘democratic society can do away with inequality and establish social justice’.”

“Trankovits,” German Foreign Policy notes, is “a member of the elitist Rotary-Club.” He demands that “the elite clearly ‘commits itself to capitalism and profit,’ and that ‘intelligent forms of public relations’ be used to communicate policy measures to the population. However, the demand for more ‘transparency’ is ‘counterproductive and paralyzing’ for any ‘governance efficiency’ and must be rejected.”

That drivel such as this was penned by a journalist for Germany’s leading news agency, to whit, that the media should serve as a propaganda mouthpiece for casino capitalist interests, is one more sign that democratic norms, already seriously eroded in the West, are now being rapidly jettisoned by our political masters.

With the global capitalist system on the verge of a repeat performance of the 2008 meltdown, and with a worldwide resurgence of opposition to the one-sided costs of saving a system of financial plunder borne by the working class, elite calls for “less democracy” are warning signs that stern measures, including blanket surveillance and naked police violence, are in the offing.

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, Montreal, he is a Contributing Editor with Cyrano’s Journal Today. His articles can be read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily, Pacific Free Press, Uncommon Thought Journal, and the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press and has contributed to the new book from Global Research, The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.

Tom Burghardt is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Tom Burghardt

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=27107

ZOG OF GERMANY!

3 responses to “Germany. Calls for “Less Democracy”: Police Caught Planting Spyware on Personal Computers

  1. GLOBAL CAPITALIST SYSTEM…..BULLSHIT ….BAILING OUT BANKS IS NOT CAPITALIST!

    TAX CREDITS- MAKING UP FROM TAXES POOR WAGES PAID BY CORPORATIONS ISN’T CAPITALIST!

    PRIVATISING PROFITS- NATIONALISING DEBT- ISN’T CAPITALIST……THE STINK IS RED AND COMMUNIST- FASCISM – BUT NOT CAPITALISM…. IN IT’S CLASSICAL SENSE.

    PONZI SCHEME’S ARE NOT CAPITALISM EITHER…..

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=27107

  2. LETS SEE..

    Author Laszlo Trankovits, the bureau chief of the Deutsche Presse Agentur in South Africa, who had previously worked for the agency in Washington “as its White House correspondent,” explained “it should never be suggested that a ‘democratic society can do away with inequality and establish social justice’.”

    http://britanniaradio.blogspot.com/2011/09/dare-less-democracy-20110920.html

    HOW THINGS CAN BE TWISTED TO SUIT…

    Dare Less Democracy2011/09/20
    FRANKFURT/BERLIN(Own report) – A recently published book, by one of the most influential German newspaper publishers, is pleading for a transition toward “less democracy.” The “voice of the people” and the “emancipatory Zeitgeist, putting everything into question,” has a too “paralyzing influence” on current governance, writes the publishing house in its blurb for the book. The author therefore demands to “correct the system” for “more efficient policy making.” These “corrections” must include the dismantlement of democratic participation. The book, recently published under the title “Dare Less Democracy” is being heavily promoted by public broadcasting stations, for example the Westdeutsche Rundfunk (WDR), with close affiliation to the Social Democrats. Since some time, influential circles of the German elite have been demanding dismantlement of democracy in Germany. The recently published book will bring this debate into a broader public.
    The book “Dare Less Democracy” was published in August by the publishing house of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of the most influential German dailies. The author Laszlo Trankovits is the bureau chief and correspondent of the Deutsche Presse Agentur (dpa) in South Africa. He had previously worked for dpa in Washington – as its “White House correspondent,” explains the publisher.[1] The title of the book is hinting at social modernization that was introduced in the 1960s and often described with the demand to “Dare More Democracy.” This was the formulation used by Chancellor Willy Brandt (SPD) in his government declaration speech in October 1969.
    Functioning Leadership
    Laszlo Trankovits opposes continuing this development. He claims that the politicians and the economy are presently faced with enormous problems that would only worsen with demands for popular participation, such as “Stuttgart 21.” Frequent elections only increase pressure on politicians, who, out of fear of losing elections, avoid necessary and painful social cuts. Revelations on the internet, such as those by WikiLeaks, are exacerbating the policy making problems to the extreme. “The functioning and efficiency of a society, state and economy” are threatened, if “everyone can have their say and participate in everything.”[2] It is therefore necessary to “debate how the systems of leadership, planning and shaping the future can continue to function.” But this will lead to conflict with “political correctness,” which “usually” proscribes “all demands (…) for a moderate limitation of participation and transparency.”
    Fewer Elections, More Concentration of Power
    Trankovits however, is publicly calling for means of reducing democratic participation in Germany. He demands: “Fewer elections, longer legislative periods” and for the government “more centralization, more concentration of power, more control.” In reference to the Federal Constitutional Court being repeatedly summoned on the constitutionality of new laws, Trankovits writes: “The increasing involvement of the Constitutional Court is heading in the wrong direction.”[3] Rather than democratic participation, “Governance” needs “competence, decisiveness and leadership.” It should never be suggested that a “democratic society can do away with inequality and establish social justice.” Trankovits, a member of the elitist Rotary-Club, demands that the elite clearly “commits itself to capitalism and profit,” and that “intelligent forms of public relations” be used to communicate policy measures to the population. However, the demand for more “transparency” is “counterproductive and paralyzing” for any “governance efficiency” and must be rejected, declares Trankovits.
    Feelings of Superiority of Democrats
    The call to dismantle democratic participation must obviously be seen in light of the West’s loss of global influence to China’s advantage. Trankovits explains [4] that “German top managers (…) often are ravished, when they speak of China’s huge development leaps.” In “western democracies” we are accustomed to “years, if not decades of debate on the construction of a new power plant, airport or railway station.” China’s economic success causes “doubts about democracy’s superiority” and the “traditional feelings of superiority held by democrats” is dwindling. This will induce efforts to reshape western societies, so that they can again take the leadership in global competition.
    A Bit of Dictatorship
    All this corresponds to assessments expressed in a review published in the periodical “Internationale Politik” last year.[5] The review also explained that China’s economic boom “has reignited the competition of systems.” Particularly “managers and industrialists” are hoping that the dismantlement of democratic participation will enhance “their opportunities.” In their discussions, the elites are particularly bemoaning the inertia of democratic procedures and “the lack of a selection of political personnel.” This induces a wish for “conceptualization of pertinent, depoliticized, bureaucratic procedure” and for “a bit of dictatorship.” In fact, circles of the Berlin’s establishment are already discussing dictatorial methods. The key Nazi jurist, Carl Schmitt, differentiated between provisional and sovereign dictatorships. “If there is various talk of dictatorial powers and measures today, it is usually [! german-foreign-policy.com] in the sense of what Schmitt referred to as a provisional dictatorship,” the review explains, while also recognizing certain problems in its implementation. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[6]) “But no constitutional institution is prepared to take the risk of installing a provisional dictator.”
    Initial State Support
    Trankovits’ recent book, presented by the publishing house of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, pursues the debate described in the periodical ” Internationale Politik”. The book is particularly promoted by public broadcasting stations. For example, according to the Westdeutsche Rundfunk (WDR), closely affiliated with the Social Democrats, Trankovits has “carefully analyzed why too many opinion polls, too much democratic participation and accessibility to the citizens could paralyze Germany.”[7] And according to the Hessische Rundfunk (HR), “his book seeks to counteract disenchantment with politics (and politicians) and is an encouragement to all of us.”[8] Both broadcasting stations are providing much space and praise to the author and his publication – initial state support for an attempt to bring the debate on dismantling democracy into a larger public. A review of Laszlo Trankovits’ book “Dare less Democracy” can be found here.
    [1] Die Obama-Methode; http://www.faz-institut.de
    [2], [3], [4] Laszlo Trankovits: Weniger Demokratie wagen! Wie Politik und Wirtschaft wieder handlungsfähig werden, Frankfurt am Main 2011 (Frankfurter Allgemeine Buch)
    [5], [6] Internationale Politik Mai/Juni 2010. See also A Bit of Dictatorship
    [7] Die Stimme des Volkes; http://www.wdr2.de
    [8] “Weniger Demokratie wagen!” – Laszlo Trankovits im Gespräch; http://www.hr-online.de

    Posted by Britannia Radio at 22:47

  3. THROWING IN THE WORD CAPITALISM- WHEN EVERYTHING ELSE CLEARLY IS COMMUNIST….BIG GOVERNMENT IS COMMIE – SURELY THEY KNOW THAT!

    Trankovits however, is publicly calling for means of reducing democratic participation in Germany. He demands: “Fewer elections, longer legislative periods” and for the government “more centralization, more concentration of power, more control.” In reference to the Federal Constitutional Court being repeatedly summoned on the constitutionality of new laws, Trankovits writes: “The increasing involvement of the Constitutional Court is heading in the wrong direction.”[3] Rather than democratic participation, “Governance” needs “competence, decisiveness and leadership.” It should never be suggested that a “democratic society can do away with inequality and establish social justice.” Trankovits, a member of the elitist Rotary-Club, demands that the elite clearly “commits itself to capitalism and profit,” and that “intelligent forms of public relations” be used to communicate policy measures to the population. However, the demand for more “transparency” is “counterproductive and paralyzing” for any “governance efficiency” and must be rejected, declares Trankovits.

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