Bavarian police resorted to a "Trojan horse" to spy on the activities of potential criminals. Other Länder would be affected. The case caused a major scandal in Germany and embarrass the ruling coalition in Berlin.
The German authorities are under scrutiny after the revelation of a case of "Trojan horse" computer program badly put together ... The interior minister of Bavaria, Joachim Herrmann (CSU), acknowledged Monday evening that his services were at the origin of a virus-like "Trojan" to spy on a target computer before deliberately infected.
The scandal was revealed Saturday by the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), an association of German hackers. The CCC, 3000 members strong, is one of the largest European organizations of computer hackers. Monday in the day, a Bavarian lawyer confirmed that one of its customers suspected of engaging in drug trafficking and checked pushed Customs at the airport in Munich, had been the victim of the virus in question.
The Germans are not kidding with the protection of privacy. The experience of two dictatorships, Nazi and Communist, explains the high sensitivity of public opinion on this subject, and the case could have political consequences.
"Ozapftis", "Bundestrojaner", "R2D2" ... The virus has several code names.Once infiltrated, the Trojan created in 2009 by the IT company DigiTask (Hesse) can spy on Internet communications - which, after approval of a judge, is legal in Germany if public safety is at stake but this virus also opens access to camera and microphone functions on the infected computer and can spy on communications like Skype, and even copy pages display - everything perfectly illegal in Germany. Worse, an error in manufacturing allows third parties, according to the association CCC, also access to the infected computer.
For German hackers, the thing is understood: "Ozapftis" was not used in Bavaria. "We have very concrete evidence as what program was used by police in several states," says the spokesman for CCC, Frank Rieger.Baden-Württemberg (led by the Greens and Social Democrats) and Bavaria under pressure have already announced that it had suspended the use of the spying program in the wake of the scandal. In Bavaria, the opposition demanded the resignation of the Regional Minister of the Interior. And the case has not finished making waves in the Länder: according to the weekly Der Spiegel, DigiTask would have provided other spying programs to the states, including customs to Cologne.
But the case embarrasses, beyond the Länder, to Berlin. The Ministry of Home Affairs assures that "Ozapftis" was not used by the national police. "But nothing says that the secret services did it are not served either!" Squeaky green MP Christian Ströbele. Angela Merkel has at least found it necessary to step up. The Chancellor has indicated through his spokesman that it "monitors the progress of the investigation."
Especially, the case is again the fragile coalition government into a corner. Federal Minister of Justice, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (FDP), took aim yesterday at his colleague of the Interior, Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU), demanding finally clear legislation that "effectively protect" the citizen of any espionage. "We must do everything to ensure that citizens do not lose confidence in the rule of law," insists the popular minister.
The intelligence of potential criminals is a recurring theme of political debate in Germany. These practices are strictly regulated since February 2008. But often, the discussion bounced from police on the one hand and conservatives - who want a more flexible legal straitjacket - and users and other liberals - support a total ban on such practices. "We are dealing with a new class of criminals can no longer see except in following their footsteps on the Net," says the police union, which argues for more flexibility. Security against liberty, the debate has not stopped bouncing.