German federal Trojan eavesdrops on 15 applications, experts find

The R2D2 surveillance Trojan also has support for 64-bit Windows systems

A Trojan used by German law enforcement authorities to intercept Internet phone calls is capable of monitoring traffic from 15 programs, including browsers and instant messaging applications.

The discovery was made by malware analysts from antivirus vendor Kaspersky Lab, who took apart the so-called lawful surveillance software, dubbed 0zapftis, Bundestrojaner or R2D2 by the security community. The Trojan was initially analyzed by famous German hacker collective the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), which determined that Skype is one of its targets.

The Trojan's installer deploys five components, each with a different purpose, and Kaspersky has analyzed all of them, said Tillmann Werner, a security researcher with Kaspersky in Germany.

"Amongst the new things we found in there are two rather interesting ones: Firstly, this version is not only capable of running on 32 bit systems; it also includes support for 64 bit versions of Windows," he said. "Secondly, the list of target processes to monitor is longer than the one mentioned in the CCC report. The number of applications infected by the various components is 15 in total."

The list of targeted applications includes major browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera, as well programs with VoIP and data encryption functionality, including ICQ, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Skype, Low-Rate VoIP, CounterPath X-Lite and Paltalk.

On 32-bit Windows systems the Trojan uses a kernel-mode rootkit that monitors targeted processes and injects rogue libraries into them. However, on 64-bit platforms, the system driver is much more basic and only serves as an interface to modify registry entries or the file system.

Furthermore, it is signed with a certificate that isn't trusted under Windows by default. This means that deploying the Trojan requires user confirmation, which might not necessarily be a problem for authorities, because they reportedly install it during border searches or similar interventions.

Kaspersky said its products detected the Trojan installer heuristically even before a sample was analyzed and signatures were added for it. However, those tools may not help if outsiders can manually add an exception in the program. Computer users can prevent outsiders from doing this by using a password to protect their antivirus configurations, and most products offer this option.

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