Cyberpunk Review » German Police Looking to Hack Skype.

January 31, 2008

German Police Looking to Hack Skype.

A news story from Wired reports of documents leaked to WikiLeaks showing the German police contracting DigiTask to create a trojan to intercept Skype traffic before it gets encrypted. The documents can be viewed on WikiLeaks here (in the native German) and here (rough English translation).


Hasn’t this been done before? Last July, Wired reported on how the FBI used spyware to track a person making bomb threats (My blog of the report is here). That was only the latest use of spyware by US law enforcement to circumvent a suspect’s own security, including possible encryption of Internet traffic.
Looks like the Germans are catching on, and quite possibly the rest of the world’s governments with them. Then again, when Duh’bya issues a secret directive to expand net monitoring because of repeated hacker attacks, you have to wonder who really has the upper hand in the hacking game.


The specs on the spookware. The idea behind the warez is to facilitate a “man-in-the-middle” attack. That is, to capture Skype traffic before it is encrypted for transmission, or possibly to capture the public-key encryption code for future hacks of the target’s… maybe all of Skype’s… communications.

The offer DigiTask makes to Germany’s Bavaria state shows the reason behind the reason for the trojan attack:

Encryption of communication via Skype poses a problem for surveillance of telecommunications. All traffic generated by Skype can be captured when surveilling a Dialin- or DSL-link, but it cannot be decrypted. The encryption of Skype works via AES wih a 256-Bit key. The symmetric AES keys are negotiated via RSA keys (1536 to 2048 Bit). The public keys of the users are confirmed by the Skype-Login-Server when logging in. To surveil Skype-communication it thus becomes necessary to realize other approaches than standard telecommunications surveillance.

The concept of DigiTask intends to install a so called Skype-Capture-Unit on the PC of the surveilled person. This Capture-Unit allows recording of the Skype communication, such as Voice and Chat, as well as diverting the data to an anonymous Recoridng-Proxy. The Recording-Proxy (not part of this offer) forwards the data to the final Recording-Server. The data can then be accessed via mobile Evaluation Stations.

The mobile Evaluation Units can, making use of a streaming-capable multimedia player, playback the recorded Skype communication, such as Voice and Chat, also live. To minimize bandwidth usage special codecs for strong compressions are used. The transmission of data to the recording unit is encrypted using the AES algorithm.

The main problem, of course, is getting the warez on the target’s system. The police, assuming they have the proper warrants to do so, will need to enter the target’s place and install the trojan manually, or craft an e-mail to trick the target to install it himself. Depending on the target’s knowledge and/or experience with such malware and his system’s defenses, he may not take the e-mail bait or his anti-malware applications may detect the trojan and destroy it before it can be installed.


Who wants to be Big Brother? America and Germany may only be the tip of the iceberg. Other nations’ law enforcement agencies may already be concocting, or executing, similar hacks under everyone’s nose.

SETEC Astronomy?

This post has been filed under News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.


January 31, 2008

Edidid said:

You are completely right on the crux of the issue being how the software gets on the targetted system. In addition who they decide to target.

As an avid Skype user I really don’t mind the technology existing and being used to stop serious crime. However I wonder how the laws legislating the application of software such as this. When there are multiple users to a computer, or if only a specific WiFi area is known as the source (such as a cafe) then how do you decide who to target? or do you just target everyone? What if you have a MAC address and multiple IP sources?

kenryoku_one said:

Haha, too many secrets.

Synthoid said:

The Germans are going in!

Kovacs said:

One thing I like to use for MSN Messenger is (the totaly unauthorized) ‘A-Patch’ to take out the adds and crap I don’t want. I honestly have no idea if installing this creates a hole in my communications, by I figure my subjects are so inane that they’re not worth surveilling.

This, however, could be something that the LEA Hackers can exploit. They could create a purpousful hack-patch that provides some genuine unauthorized service - free phone calls or something - that has hidden with it’s code the back door they don’t trigger until the hack-patch is an established application.

February 1, 2008

Timothy said:

It sounds to me like there just flailing around trying to sound scary, any half decent hacker shouldnt fall for trojan on there system weather they tried to hack it in or do it phisicaly put it on somones pc.

January 18, 2009

ngor said:

January 4, 2010

nightshade said:

I don’t think this will be a problem for anyone with half a brain.
The article said it, right? The cops would have to either break
into the person’s computer without their knowledge (they would
need a warrant to do so) or they would need to trick them onto
a website or email. This level of inconvenience would really only
be used on top-nasties whether it was a bug or software of some kind, considering that if the game-plan for utilizing this method weren’t more full of holes than dick cheney’s former hunting buddies, they’d still have to go through a lot for just a little. The only effective method of using this virus is to plant it in their computer (problem: I guard my computer like fort knox gold personally, and i’m not even a highly-wanted crook. There’s no way that someone whose head is so wanted would let that happen to them digitally or physically. If i was them, and the feds knocked me out, first thing i would do is destroy all mobile communications devices (cell phones, laptop computers, everything except my safe-locked backups, which i would run a full check on using another stolen computer.) The rest is not being a dumbass online and clicking any old thing without making sure it’s not a trap.

nightshade said:

And another thing, *any streaming-capable media player*?? Are they even trying to make it a trojan!? All you have to do is use another coomputer on the network to check for streaming audio/video. It’s not like they’re the “big, uber-powerful, scary government” we’ve been scared of. I personally think of their ability, and methods about the same as the bully that comes by and beats little kids up for their lunch money. (Btw, I totally kicked his ass one day. It was awesome)

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