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Electronic Frontier Foundation Privacy Security

Hundreds of Police Agencies Distributing Spyware and Keylogger 72

realized sends this news from the EFF: For years, local law enforcement agencies around the country have told parents that installing ComputerCOP software is the "first step" in protecting their children online. ... As official as it looks,ComputerCOP is actually just spyware, generally bought in bulk from a New York company that appears to do nothing but market this software to local government agencies. The way ComputerCOP works is neither safe nor secure. It isn't particularly effective either, except for generating positive PR for the law enforcement agencies distributing it.

As security software goes, we observed a product with a keystroke-capturing function, also called a "keylogger," that could place a family's personal information at extreme risk by transmitting what a user types over the Internet to third-party servers without encryption. EFF conducted a security review of ComputerCOP while also following the paper trail of public records to see how widely the software has spread. Based on ComputerCOP's own marketing information, we identified approximately 245 agencies in more than 35 states, plus the U.S. Marshals, that have used public funds (often the proceeds from property seized during criminal investigations) to purchase and distribute ComputerCOP. One sheriff's department even bought a copy for every family in its county.
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Hundreds of Police Agencies Distributing Spyware and Keylogger

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Isn't this a crime?

    • Re: Uhhhh (Score:5, Informative)

      by mrbill1234 ( 715607 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2014 @11:34AM (#48038217)

      Only for some

      http://www.wired.com/2014/10/s... [wired.com]

    • only if you don't tell the person using the computer what it does....oh, wait...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01, 2014 @11:32AM (#48038191)
    this could go two ways - one, the computerCOP software enables the police to spy on people. two, the computerCOP software opens up so many vulnerabilities that malware authors swoop in and scoop up the data. I could see either being plausible, or both even. Any insights here, not just conjecture?
    • by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2014 @11:58AM (#48038487) Homepage Journal

      I did not RTFA of course, but another possibility is to give the ability to dump kiddie porn on a target's computer to create more suspicion and give them leverage and a PR boost. I used to think the Police were above such things and that the "plant a gun" meme was rare, but as we have seen in St. Louis and making public records available that show the victim might not be a great guy... maybe this happens more than we think.

      • by NoImNotNineVolt ( 832851 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2014 @01:07PM (#48039379) Homepage
        I've had law enforcement officers plant "something" in my car during an anything-but-routine traffic stop. In the end, no arrests were made, and the law enforcement officers settled for merely assaulting one of my passengers.

        Disclaimer: The corruption of this municipal police force was documented [ire.org] by CBS News' program 60 Minutes in the year 2000, which is right around the time of the incident I described. They may not be representative of law enforcement officers elsewhere.
    • Depends on the city, state or federal funding. In the past 10 or so years huge amounts of funding, contractors and quickly cleared staff having been moving around all over the USA.
      Products have been sold, technical support and maintenance is in place for years covering federal and state needs.
      Now its up to the locals to find something to do with the cell phone data, maps, voice prints, credit card usage, cctv, gunshot location systems and keystroke-capturing.
      The information sorting is done by local or
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I wonder how much they've made off the public by selling this toxic crap under the guise of "safety"

  • PIGS (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Fuck the po-lice

    • Re:PIGS (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2014 @11:54AM (#48038437) Homepage Journal

      Yeah, replying to a troll isn't good, but in a time when most sane people that the power of the police, the SOPs of the police, and the hiring practices of the police need a makeover it is yet another black eye. I support GOOD police officers, but it appears that the bad has penetrated every level of police procedure.

      • [I]n a time when most sane people [believe] that the power of the police, the SOPs of the police, and the hiring practices of the police need a makeover it is yet another black eye

        Indeed: "fuck the police" is now something even middle-class white men say!

        • And this is what actually is the threat here. The police used to be the "serve and protect" kind of guys. Ya know, back when I was young, there was still a lot of respect and also trust in them. Seeing a policeman walking down the road was something that made you feel safe, secure, protected. It was really a good feeling to know that these people are out and about, you could approach them for aid and even when they knocked at your door, for most people this wasn't something that concerned them. At worst it

          • My personal "aha moment" came when I was talking to a policeman that I knew in a social setting. I mentioned an article that the local paper had published. In the article, the reporters described their experience of going around local police stations asking for information that the police were required to provide under state law. In a few cases, the reporters were given the information, but mostly the responses ranged from "no" to opening an investigation on the reporters.

            To get to the point -- the respons

            • How long until the old Soviet "cleansing era" joke becomes topical again?

              Midnight, a loud banging on the door.
              "Open up! Open up! It's your neighbor, don't worry, you're not in danger, your house is just on fire!"

  • Perfect example (Score:4, Insightful)

    by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2014 @11:52AM (#48038409) Journal
    If anyone ever wanted an example of why LEO agencies cannot be trusted, this is it.
    • by AqD ( 1885732 )

      If anyone ever wanted an example of why LOL agencies cannot be trusted, this is it.

      ..... corrected for you

  • misleading (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2014 @11:54AM (#48038441)

    This is a misleading story and summary.

    I got the impression the police were distributing this as some kind of internet filter, and secretly using it to monitor your computer.
    It's not.
    The are advertising it for what it is. A keylogger... so you can spy on your kids.
    It's a crappy piece of software, and the company that produced it made some disreputable marketing claims.
    The police are not using it to spy on you.

    I have a 6yr old. The way I monitor his internet activity is simple. The computers in the living room right next to the couch. I can see everything he's doing, any time hes on it. I have the password so he can't log on without me entering it for him. Every game he plays or site he visits I go checkout myself. Btw, Adventure Time Battle party is his favorite and it's actually pretty fun for adults to.

    • Re:misleading (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nemyst ( 1383049 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2014 @12:00PM (#48038511) Homepage
      Except that's not what the summary's saying. TFS says that police agencies are distributing and/or promoting an insecure and not particularly useful piece of software to parents under the guise of "protecting their children". I'm sorry but the police's job isn't to be doing software advocacy, and it especially isn't to promote a specific piece of commercial software, let alone actually buying it for other people without them requesting it. That it's bad at its job and can compromise personal information is just icing on the cake.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        The title of this article:

        Hundreds of Police Agencies Distributing Spyware and Keylogger

        I guess you're just smarter than me... My warning is for all us dumb people, so we're not tricked into thinking this keylogger was targeted at us. I understand that you knew immediately what that meant, but those of us with IQ's bellow 200 might have gotten a tad confused.

      • The other bit of information that's in TFS is that this key-logger is sending the logged information in clear-text to a third party.

        Let me repeat that: it's sending keystrokes in the clear to a third party.

        At this point, it doesn't really matter who it's aimed at, who is supposed to read the information, etc. If keystrokes are being logged and the data is being sent in the clear, then that pretty much means you've got a major security hole in your network. Even if malware authors don't exploit it, it make

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jrms ( 1347707 )

      Mod parent up for good parent...ing.

    • by Bonzoli ( 932939 )
      That changes if your kids have school computers and need it to do 2-3 hours of homework every night, much of it before you get home at 6pm.
    • Parenting (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Minupla ( 62455 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {alpunim}> on Wednesday October 01, 2014 @12:07PM (#48038627) Homepage Journal

      It comes down to knowing your kid.

      I have a 6 yr old too. If she sees me looking at something on the computer, she'll come up, looking away and say "Daddy, is that kid appropriate?" before looking. I have no concerns that she'll break the rules, so I don't feel the need for any preventive controls. If I had a child with a different temperament I would react differently of course. For what its worth, my day job involves ensuring that people employed by my company are safe on the internet. Generally my 6 yr old is better behaved :)

    • I have a similar policy with my 5 yr old boy, apart from the password. I let him choose his own password , of course I know what he typed, but he thinks he has a secret which he thinks is great, and he has his introduction to computer security.
    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      This is a misleading story and summary.

      I got the impression the police were distributing this as some kind of internet filter, and secretly using it to monitor your computer.
      It's not.
      The are advertising it for what it is. A keylogger... so you can spy on your kids.

      If it's for parents to monitor children, why is the data being sent to a third-party server? It should be staying on the computer for parents to peruse later.

    • You're actually educating and parenting? What kind of father are you, spending time with your kid and taking an interest in his activity...

      What an alien concept.

    • This is a misleading story and summary.

      I got the impression the police were distributing this as some kind of internet filter, and secretly using it to monitor your computer.
      It's not.
      The are advertising it for what it is. A keylogger... so you can spy on your kids.
      It's a crappy piece of software, and the company that produced it made some disreputable marketing claims.
      The police are not using it to spy on you.

      I have a 6yr old. The way I monitor his internet activity is simple. The computers in the living room right next to the couch. I can see everything he's doing, any time hes on it. I have the password so he can't log on without me entering it for him. Every game he plays or site he visits I go checkout myself. Btw, Adventure Time Battle party is his favorite and it's actually pretty fun for adults to.

      Do you go to his friends' places with him and monitor over his shoulder then too?

      My kid is ten and has a good head on his shoulders. I've discussed the risks of the net with him and we've discussed several times what he should avoid.

      Teach your kids and they'll be much better protected everywhere they access the net, not just when you're sitting with them.

  • by kruach aum ( 1934852 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2014 @12:03PM (#48038561)

    now we know: marketers. I wonder if Alan Moore's snake god already told him.

  • Sounds like someone should go to jail [slashdot.org]. Right?
  • The Hypocrisy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FrodoOfTheShire ( 3459835 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2014 @12:15PM (#48038755)
    The FBI arrested the CEO of StealthGenie for providing software that can be used for stalking, and here you have a story where Police Agencies are providing stalking software for free.
    Does anyone else find this hypocrisy hilarious?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Not at all. Because the article reads like the police have been duped by the company making this software as well. The company even faked a letter of endorsement from the U.S. Department of Treasury..."In investigating ComputerCOP, we also discovered misleading marketing material, including a letter of endorsement purportedly from the U.S. Department of Treasury, which has now issued a fraud alert over the document."

    • Re:The Hypocrisy (Score:4, Insightful)

      by oxdas ( 2447598 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2014 @02:10PM (#48040091)

      While you might agree or disagree with the laws themselves, the government is not displaying hypocrisy in this instance. The CEO for StealthGenie was not arrested for providing software, but advertising software for an illegal purpose. Since it is legal for parents to spy on their minor children, had StealthGenie advertised their product only for that use, it would have been legal. While duct tape is perfectly legal, it is illegal for me to advertise duct tape as "The best tape for securing your kidnapping victims". This is the same situation as StealthGenie.

      A great example of this in the real world is water bongs. In my community, it is legal to make a bong and legal to sell them. So, every shop that does so advertises them for tabacco use. Now, the shop knows that 99%+ of their customers will use the bong for marijuana, but as long as they don't advertise that, they are fine.

  • I remember receiving a copy of this stuff years ago to help keep me safe and it had several bugs.
    1. The binary wont execute on System V release 4 (it came on a music CD i think.) Out of desparation I tried getting it to run on SGI and my trusty DEC but still, nothing. Wine seemed to be the only software that could get the damn thing working (I had to upgrade to a GNU/Linux personal computer)
    2. It didnt work with lynx and curl. Even worse, it never worked as promised with my usenet newsreader NetNews.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Your attempt to act "old school cool" has failed.

  • "place a family's personal information at extreme risk by transmitting what a user types over the Internet to third-party serverswithout encryption."

    Yes, that's what's the big problem...third parties might eavesdrop on sloppy, 1984-like government spying.

    3rd parties.

  • Why isn't anyone asking why these sheriffs departments are even buying this software with their soft funds? I'll bet there is a campaign contribution that correlates with each of these sales.
    • There is. It's mentioned in the story:
      "Since 2007, Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco’s office in New York, where ComputerCOP is based, has bought 43,000 copies of the software—a fact trumpeted in DeMarco’s reelection campaign materials. ComputerCOP’s parent company directly donated to DeMarco’s campaign at least nine times over the same period.

      Indeed, ComputerCOP markets itself as the “perfect election and fundraising tool.” As part of the package, when a law

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