Trojan & Co, the new frontiers of espionage

Pierluigi Paganini November 13, 2011
Once upon a time the espionage made by agents who essentially lived in complete anonymity and free of the past were able to recover the greatest amount of information about their objectives by building dangerous relationships with the reality of interest. Over the years, and the overwhelming technological evolution,  scenarios are profoundly changed. Access to information most often passes through the circuits of a mobile device or a personal computer and this led to an increasing focus of many companies and government agencies in the study and implementation of sophisticated software that can monitor every activity of the victim, collecting information useful to the cause.
The history is full of cyber espionage event, for example in 2005 a serious commercial espionage system was discovered in Israel. For years, several large-scale companies enjoyed inside information about their competitors using a Trojan horse application that was planted on victims’ workstations.

In June 2005, the United  Kingdom’s National Infrastructure Security Coordination Centre (NISCC) provided advice and issued a briefing pertaining to targeted Trojan email attacks against the UK Government and companies. The main goal of the attacks is covert gathering and transmitting of sensible information.

During the 2009 According to German Web site Der Spiegel, the German foreign intelligence agency BND has supposedly been spying on computer systems around the world in the past couple of years. BND has installed key loggers in the system.

Last month German Police has admitted using specially designed computer software to spy on citizens, after a hacker group Chaos Computer Club revealed the existence of the software. German authorities regularly employ the so-called ‘Bundestrojaner’ (‘Federal Trojan’) virus in order to spy on the users of targeted computers. The virus, which was revealed to the Club via an anonymous tipster, was developed by German police experts, and is used by government agents it to intercept electronic information during investigations.

All these cases are linked by a common factor, the intent of governments to control and spy on citizens or individuals who may potentially pose a threat to national security. Multiple violations of privacy observed in similar contexts, representing the inoculation of malware, a change in the system to be spying and thus leading to render questionable the evidence collected in this way.

Undoubtedly useful, such techniques lend themselves more to the collection of information that for probative evidence. But if in the public context this is what happened, in the meantime in the private sector we had a similar approach to the technology. Many companies have made ​​use of trojans, keyloggersand other malware to spy employees or trying to snatch secrets to their competior.  Substantial investments have been done by private companies and sometimed we have read sensational news, last one occurred in recent days related the industry giant EDF Energy sentenced for using a Trojan to spy on the operations of Greenpeace activists.

What are the scenarios that can be expected? Certainly a war without borders in cyberspace, a rapid growth in investment for this “weapon” as well as strong spending for defense against them, we will see some good!



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