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Expenditure Report Reveals Germany Monitors Skype, Google Mail, Facebook Chat 89

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the blame-the-accountants dept.
hypnosec writes "The German Government has gone a bit too far trying to be transparent, inadvertently revealing that German police monitor Skype, Google Mail, MSN Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, and Facebook chat when necessary. The revelations, spotted by the annalist blog, come from a report of expenses incurred by the Federal Ministry of the Interior following a parliamentary inquiry. The report contains lots of tables and as many would find those boring, some highlights: On page 34 and page 37 of the report line item 486 and 265 respectively, represent decoding software for Google Mail, MSN Hotmail, Yahoo Mail for prevention and investigation."
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Expenditure Report Reveals Germany Monitors Skype, Google Mail, Facebook Chat

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  • Reveals too much? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SquarePixel (1851068) * on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @12:01PM (#41608491)

    Isn't it good that the government is transparent?

    • by Isaac Remuant (1891806) on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @12:16PM (#41608701)

      I don't understand why the modded you down.

      Being transparent (and therefore disclosing what can be seen as wrongdoing) is a GOOD thing.

      I did not like the "too transparent" suggestion that seems to lead to the conclusion that it's better to be secretive so you can get away with wrongdoing. Which is where USA seems to be going. No oversight due to never ending secrecy claims.

      Now, in this specific case, the revelation had little to do with transparency of that issue but of a mistake regarding government expenditure.

      • by Xacid (560407)

        Thirded. Came here to say the same thing.

      • by cjjjer (530715)
        Because all the people who modded the post down saw was

        Isn't it good that the government

      • So far, there is no evidence of wrongdoing, just that they have, and may have used software for accessing various services used by people to communicate.

        A separate investigation would be needed to see if the German police services are using these tools following German laws.

    • Yes it is.
      Skype is a slattern - and its pimps are voyeurs.
      Achtung !
    • Hello and welcome to the Internet. You must be new here. We here do sometimes happen to speak in strange tongues, sometimes we might even portrait a thing desirable as being appalling. That is a rhetoric trick called irony, sometimes even sarcasm. HTH.

      What the author mean to say was this: the government probably did reveal more than they meant to, as spying on their on citizens on a regular basis is so 1984, and no one from 2012 wants to live in a future like that and we'll have elections here in Germany so

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Isn't most Google Mail traffic SSL encrypted?

    • Which is useless if the party that wants to monitor you is somewhat sophisticated:
      a) they have access to your computer remotely (keylogger, screengrabber, remote desktop, etc)
      b) they can make you think you're accessing Google (MITM)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Verisign hand out all their certificates to major governments, haven't you heard?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        What's funny about this, is that it's not even a paranoid conspiracy theory or some kind of obscure secret. They say they do it. They promise all users that it's guaranteed to be insecure.

      • by cultiv8 (1660093)
        It's not just verisign [arstechnica.com], certificates from any CA can/are being used with the likes of this device [wired.com].
    • by Hatta (162192)

      Sure, from your browser to Google's server it's encrypted. What about from Google's MTA to the next MTA? Or from that MTA to the one after that? What if the recipient uses plain old POP3 to access the email you sent through GMail using HTTPS?

      If your message isn't encrypted end to end, it may as well not be encrypted at all.

  • by zlives (2009072)

    how is this news? (tinfoil fully charged)

    • Wasn't this already common knowledge several years ago?
      • by rbrausse (1319883)

        this is new insofar as it is an official government document. The common knowledge you mentioned was mostly based on (plausible) assumptions and verbal statements of politicians/law-enforcement spokespersons.

  • by v1 (525388) on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @12:07PM (#41608557) Homepage Journal

    lack of transparency: complain about lack of transparency

    transparency: complain about what you see

    I'd much rather be able to see that my government is doing something I'd like to know more about, than to know that they're hiding something from me that's potentially of interest to me.

    • You do realize that "transparency" is so that you can see what they are doing and...complain if they are doing undesirable things, right?
  • by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @12:07PM (#41608561) Homepage

    I personally would like to know and hold my government responsible for things like this. In theory one might argue that given a sutable warrant it might be perfectly reasonable to monitor someone. The German people have a right to know what their government is doing IMHO.

    I guess the culture in Europe vs. the U.S. is probably quite different... But no matter what the reasons transparency is almost always better than the opposite.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Indeed, common sense tells me that a government that keeps secrets can't logically be representing the people they keep secrets from -- just as a business contract can't possibly represent both parties' interests when one party refuses to disclose all pertinent information to the other. (As we all know, the relationship between government and citizen is supposedly represented by a contract.)

  • by joeflies (529536) on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @12:08PM (#41608589)
    which seems to have had the details back in 2008. I wasn't aware of something that intercepts skype, but based on the wikileaks article [wikileaks.org] it appears that it works by installing malware on the target's computer.
  • " Further, money is also spent by the ministry on Trojan viruses known as IMSI catchers which are used for "man-in-the-middle" attacks on mobile phones used by German police." So they have implemented a software mobile tower? Don't think so. They are using them on phones used by the German police? Don't think so. Last time I checked, an IMSI catcher was hardware.
  • A government that tells me when/where they monitor, than being monitor without knowing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'd actually prefer they not tell me when/where they monitor, but what they monitor. See, there are very bad people in the world who want to kill me and destroy my country. Doesn't matter which country. I want my government to have the ability to monitor them. I want to know the magnitude of the monitoring, so that I know the government is still part of "me and my country" instead of the evil people. However, I don't want the evil people to know when and where they are being monitored.

      • I want to know the magnitude of the monitoring, so that I know the government is still part of "me and my country" instead of the evil people.

        Please stop badmouthing the US. If your country's government is cooperating with us, there are probably good freedom-related reasons they're doing so.

      • Re:I'd prefer... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by alexgieg (948359) <alexgieg@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @02:42PM (#41610683) Homepage

        See, there are very bad people in the world who want to kill me and destroy my country. Doesn't matter which country.

        Wrong. Brazil is one of the largest economies in the world, and a regional power in South America, with influence over all our neighboring countries. But we don't have enemies. Why? Because we mostly keep to ourselves. Our relationship with other countries is one of selling and purchasing, not one of throwing military might around. Truth be told, a few times some more ideologically motivated governments of ours indeed started moving into that direction, but the next one usually defused the situation by reverting the idiot policy, thus bringing back international goodwill. So, although we do have lots of internal social issues, at least one we don't have is the entirely optional one of terrorism, which we avoid by the quite simple expedient of not pissing people off.

        What doesn't mean avoiding legitimate wars when they present themselves. The trick here is to not start them. Keeping to oneself does wonders in that regards too. The other country has a dictator you despise? Don't mess there, it isn't your problem. It has a dictator you like who's going to be overthrown? Don't mess there, it isn't your problem. There are troops marching into your borders. Oh, now you go and mess there.

        How hard can that be?

        • by xaxa (988988)

          Wrong. Brazil is one of the largest economies in the world, and a regional power in South America, with influence over all our neighboring countries. But we don't have enemies. Why? Because we mostly keep to ourselves. Our relationship with other countries is one of selling and purchasing, not one of throwing military might around.

          That can get difficult -- what do you do when one of your trading partner countries refuses to trade with you, because you refuse to be unfriendly to a country they don't like?

          (The potential is there for Brazil regarding the Falkland Isles.)

          • by alexgieg (948359)

            That can get difficult -- what do you do when one of your trading partner countries refuses to trade with you, because you refuse to be unfriendly to a country they don't like?

            Consistency is key. If they know you absolutely will not give up neutrality, they don't try making you give up neutrality, as they know it'll be futile. But even if they decide to stop trading with you, well, you stop trading, all the while keeping diplomatic channels open.

            Regarding the Falkland islands, I don't know details on how our diplomacy deal with it, but Argentina is indeed our biggest regional trade partner, and they do have this habit of now and then simply suspending trade while they attempt fai

        • by danwiz (538108)

          The other country has a dictator you despise? Don't mess there, it isn't your problem. It has a dictator you like who's going to be overthrown? Don't mess there, it isn't your problem. There are troops marching into your borders. Oh, now you go and mess there.

          How hard can that be?

          I'm all for letting countries stay to themselves, but why does a dictator need to step on your lawn before he gets a response? Didn't most of Europe take that stance during WWII?

          Germany annexed Austria, violating the Treaty of Versailles and St. Germain ... no response.
          Germany invaded Czechoslovakia ... no response.
          Italy conquered Albania ... no response.
          Germany attacked Poland ... finally a response! (and 6 years of world war)

          • by alexgieg (948359)

            I'm all for letting countries stay to themselves, but why does a dictator need to step on your lawn before he gets a response? Didn't most of Europe take that stance during WWII?

            There are exceptions to any rule. The problem is when the exception becomes the rule.

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @12:19PM (#41608737)

    This is not a direct proof of snooping, just that the German government has the ability to do so. That doesn't necessarily mean that it abuses that power in warrantless monitoring.

    • This is not a direct proof of snooping, just that the German government has the ability to do so. That doesn't necessarily mean that it abuses that power in warrantless monitoring.

      And what?

      Even if they don't do it today, they'll do it someday.

    • by BitterOak (537666)

      This is not a direct proof of snooping, just that the German government has the ability to do so.

      That's even more significant, because if the German government has the ability to do so, who else does? It means that SSL and the Skype protocols are not nearly as secure as one might have thought. That's much bigger news than the fact that the Germans might be spying on a few of their citizens. (Unless you happen to be German, in which case that too is a really big deal.)

      • by Hentes (2461350)

        I don't think they cracked SSL, rather they plant a trojan on target machines.

        • I don't think they cracked SSL, rather they plant a trojan on target machines.

          The item on the list reads "Software to decode recorded telecommunications: Google Mail, MSN Hotmail, Yahoo Mail" (2 identical items with different price actually)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This is the same German government that a few years ago was complaining that Skype was too hard to monitor, right? Now Microsoft owns them and I seem to notice that monitoring Skype seems to no longer be a challenge.

      Next question: which particular slimy nation-state put MS up to buying Skype so they could wreck a perfectly good security system?

      Isn't there a word for corporations and governments acting together for common goals? Starts with an "f" I think...

    • by ax_42 (470562)

      This is not a direct proof of snooping, just that the German government has the ability to do so. That doesn't necessarily mean that it abuses that power in warrantless monitoring.

      So, let's ask them for details on what they have been doing. Queue response: "National Security! We can't tell you!" sotto voce "Monitor him, he's asking questions".

  • by HPHatecraft (2748003) on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @12:19PM (#41608747)
    you know who else was... wait. You said "Germany" right?
  • Surprised? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mholve (1101) on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @12:34PM (#41608939) Homepage

    I'm not. Any modern government (law enforcement or intelligence agencies) would or at least should have this capability. The real question is, do they use it without warrants, use it in an indiscriminant fashion, etc. If they were going after a legitimate suspect, they should have the capability to do so.

    • by BitterOak (537666)

      I'm not. Any modern government (law enforcement or intelligence agencies) would or at least should have this capability.

      Really? Because saying they should have this capability is equivalent to saying we shouldn't be using strong, effective encryption.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        I'm not. Any modern government (law enforcement or intelligence agencies) would or at least should have this capability.

        Really? Because saying they should have this capability is equivalent to saying we shouldn't be using strong, effective encryption.

        National security trumps your ability to keep your Skype conversations absolutely private. Sorry, but what else do you expect?

  • by Valor958 (2724297)

    Way to set back your government back a generation.
    I'm sure references are bound to be made towards Facsism, etc etc... but frankly... it just reinforces a bad stigma against Germany after all the bad thoughts already in place over the past 100 years.
    Really though, I'm sure the US does this, but just isn't quite 'that' transparent yet.

    • by Nethemas the Great (909900) on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @01:45PM (#41609887)
      I'm not sure what you mean. Don't kid yourself. Germany isn't the only one monitoring the communications of its citizens. In reality, it would be easier to come up with a list of countries that do NOT monitor. On that very, very short list you should not be surprised when you note the absence of the first world nations, nor that it is comprised almost entirely of third-world nations. The fact that Germany actually openly admits it is a feather in their cap. Everyone does it, Germany just has the decency to be forthright about it.
      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by Max_W (812974)
        Countries or governments do not monitor. These are people who monitor other people.
        • And so a pedantic twit get's to put another notch on his belt...
          • by Max_W (812974)
            It is the same with "saving the planet". We are to save human society, the planet and life will go on in any case. It is always about people.
          • by ax_42 (470562)

            And so a pedantic twit get's to put another notch on his belt...

            Try being pedantic yourself -- it's "gets". Apostrophes aren't just random little pre-s symbols you know.

            • by tehcyder (746570)

              And so a pedantic twit get's to put another notch on his belt...

              Try being pedantic yourself -- it's "gets". Apostrophes aren't just random little pre-s symbols you know.

              There's a difference between making a small grammatical mistake like the GP and talking utter bollocks like the GGP.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          Countries or governments do not monitor. These are people who monitor other people.

          No these are people acting as representatives of the government, which is in itself a representative of the people of that country.

          I've seen this ultra-individualistic lpseudo-libertarian crap before on slashdot before. So, for example, that's not a US soldier shootinga member of al Qaeda, they're just two guys having a mano a mano fight with no need for The Government to be involved or even exist. It's stupid.

          • by Max_W (812974)
            What I meant is that information from monitoring is collected and reviewed by certain people. Yes, they work for a government, but people do wear a lot of caps.

            For example, we know of an extreme case, when a military officer send a CD with a sensitive information to WikiLeaks.org

            But the same may happen with one's data from monitoring. It can be sent not only to a government via an official channel, but to a local mob, to political extremists, it can get just to a crazy person from physical people, who
      • by ax_42 (470562)

        The fact that Germany actually openly admits it is a feather in their cap. Everyone does it, Germany just has the decency to be forthright about it.

        I don't think Germany openly admitted it -- more likely they forgot to suppress it.

    • by Valor958 (2724297)

      I think it's kind of funny I got modded flamebait when the only part of my post which was negative was the shot at Germany in the first line. I'll admit, that was intentional.
      The rest was actually explaining that we shouldn't be surprised to see REAL flamebait and Nazi references since this is a critical report on Germany.

      I'm also quite aware that we're all monitored probably much more than we'd like or be even remotely comfortable with if we really knew.

  • Just because they have the software, some of which is used to send secure encrypted Skype and decode it on the other end, does not mean they're using it on you.

    Now put some underwear on.

    I mean, seriously, that's just gross.

  • Meanwhile, the German federal consumer protection minister is widely known for criticizing Facebook's poor record on privacy.
    She's right, mind you, but it's still funny.

    People seem to be systematically blind to threats from the public or private sector, depending on political affiliation. Right-wing Americans chiefly fear their own government, not caring what corporations might do with their data. In comparatively liberal Germany, the untechnical mainstream froths at the thought of Google showing a publical

  • Now how are those alternative VOIP/Video clients coming along?

  • Not too expensive, this decoding software of theirs.

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