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back to article Skype crypto stumps German cops

German police have expressed frustration about their inability to decipher the encryption used by Skype in order to tap into the VoIP calls of suspected terrorists. Lawful interception (or wiretapping) of telephone calls has happened since before the time of rotary phones. In many countries, telecos must promise to allow …

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Stop

Muslims?

"We currently have 230 proceedings related to suspected Islamists."

Assuming that Muslims represents a fraction, maybe 5-10% of the general population, there's several thousands of non-Muslims that may be of interest for the (anti)terrorist police. Or will these measures be limited to Muslims? Or does Mr Ziercke claim that Muslims are more likely to be terrorists?

Jews, anyone...?

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Wrong headline, surely?

Wouldn't a better headline have been "German Police crack Skype encryption"? Surely the only reason they can be naming Skype by name, and claiming that it's uncrackable, is that they can listen in on any calls made using it?

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why?

Anyone wanting to pass messages without fear of decryption just needs a good old fashioned code book, or a paperback, and then just send page/word count.

unless you know the book in question, you dont stand a chance.

how can you defend agianst that, I know, anyone who looks like a terrorist, wont be allowed to buy books, there, solved it for them.

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Anonymous Coward

don't be naive

Number one, the law enforcement authorities are not limited to MS Win in their initiative - switching to Linux won't help. Number two, with the enormous resources at their disposal, they can break anywhere without relying on the suspect terrorist's stupidity to open every e-mail.

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Joke

@ Leslie

Could always burn the books - I here the Germans have experiance with that too..

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Black Helicopters

Skype Trojan

The (Swiss) German police have developed this "suspect targeted" rootkit Trojan a while ago, and on the maxim that "all's fair in love and war" then the GWOT falls into the "all's fair" category. Might not be legal, but it *will be being used* as we speak, sorry Skype.

After banning VoIP & books, I think we have to ban digital-photography next , as I heard that the eJihadists were putting stuff on 2GB microSD like the Provos did with Rizla and clingfilm/Saran Wrap. Now *that* original technique goes back to the Dutch WWII anti-Nazi resistance. Not that the Globule War on Terror has any fascist overtones?

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@anonymous coward

Quote: "Or does Mr Ziercke claim that Muslims are more likely to be terrorists?"

Surely no one in the law-enforcement or intelligence communities would be so un-PC as to focus their attentions on Islamists when investigating threats to national safety. I'm sure all people are surveilled equally. Profiling is such an ugly word isn't it? Especially when based on the flimsy evidence that Islamists were involved in minor incidents such as those in New York, Washington, Shanksville, Madrid, London, Bali et al.

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IT Angle

Que?

Surely the easiest thing to do to avoid all of this is just to make up your own language. Listening to a few Cocteau Twins records whilst planning the next jihad should do it. Let's see anyone make any sense of your phonecalls then.

Seriously, what kind of terrorist plans Jihad on Skype? If they're that cost conscious / cheapskates I don't think we have that much to worry about.

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Full circle...

So presumably, next we'll have the virus writers for organised criminals (sorry, Terrrrrrrrorists!) developing anti-malware packages to combat the state sponsored snooping app?

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Re: Muslims?

Terrorist equation:

Only a few muslims are terrorists, but most terrorists are muslims.

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Muslims as terrorists

"flimsy evidence that Islamists were involved in minor incidents such as those in New York, Washington, Shanksville, Madrid, London, Bali et al."

"Only a few muslims are terrorists, but most terrorists are muslims"

Perhaps some history is needed. The Oklahoma bombing was commited by a white, republican, NRA member, former U.S soldier, meth smoking lapsed catholic.

Manchester and Warrington were blown up by the I.R.A.

The Tokyo subway was gassed by a group following buddhist and hindu scriptures.

The Red Army Faction (Baader-Meinhof) was made up of germans.

There are many terrorist groups, with many causes, hell there's even one fighting for cornish independance who have set off bombs.

If all catholics, germans, republicans, cornish residents etc were treated in the same way as muslims there would be outrage.

As the second biggest religion on earth, of course there will be more terrorists who are muslims than say, terrorists who are zoroastrians. Saying all or most terrorists are muslims is like saying that all or most crack addicts are christian though.

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Stop

@system

you'll need to come out with more compelling evidence that what you've presented.

comparing single instance domestic act of terrorism, committed by a handful of people to make a statement against ones own government, such as the Oklahoma City bombing to the multiple, frequent and reoccurring acts all over the world, committed by a well organized, well funded, multinational network of religious extremists claiming to be doing the work of "insert your favorite deity here", is a losing argument.

i dont think you really thought out your statement before you made it, because, any rational, intelligent human, who has even remotely paid attention over the course of the last 25 years realizes that 99% of all terrorist acts around the world are committed by islamic extremists.

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Boffin

@Brown

"you'll need to come out with more compelling evidence that what you've presented."

The comment from System about which you are complaining mentioned the IRA. Perhaps you have heard of them? A bunch of Catholic terrorists funded by donations from US citizens, who tried to blow up various UK prime minister on several occasions, who made many dozens of attacks against mainland targets and thousands of attacks in Ireland (1,300 explosions in one year alone). The total fatalities attributed to the IRA are estimated to be over 1,700. Of course, countless terrorist atrocities were also committed by their opponents, also with depressingly high numbers of fatalities, but strangely, they weren't Muslims either. Until quite recently, having an Irish accent in Great Britain was sufficient for you to be treated with suspicion.

If you are talking about suicide bombers, it might be worth noting that the group usually attributed with committing the most suicide bomb attacks over the past few years is a bunch of Maoists (the Tamil Tigers), and surprise surprise, they are atheists (and hence not Muslims), but of course the country in which their attacks are mounted is usually counted as being in the "third-world", and does not have any oil, so you might not have heard of them either, unless you are a rational, intelligent human, who has even remotely paid attention over the course of the last 25 years...

There are many other examples from around the world, even excluding state sponsored terrorism, but perhaps just these two examples are enough to convince many rational people that something more than 1% of terrorist acts in recent years have been committed by people who are not of the Muslim persuasion. Interestingly, there are some figures that suggest the number of terrorist attacks around the world has been in decline pretty much continuously since around 1967, but for some reason you don't often hear government officials referring to that kind of information very often, can't think why.

"i dont think you really thought out your statement before you made it, because, any rational, intelligent human, who has even remotely paid attention over the course of the last 25 years realizes that 99% of all terrorist acts around the world are committed by islamic extremists."

I love the self-referential humour!

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Alert

Trojan?

Skype has some massive security flaws, namely it trusts anyone who talks Skype, and Skype allow developers access to the Skype network complete with SDK (can you see the problem yet?). All the German police (or anyone really...) has to do is write some nasty malware that rides in over the Skype network (which will, incidentally, traverse NAT firewalls right into the heart of corporate networks (ever tried to block Skype at the corporate firewall?)) and compromise machines that way.

You might get a few million unexpected 'hits' on your malware but I'm sure nosey governments wont have a problem with that.

There is an excellent presentation here:

http://www.secdev.org/conf/skype_BHEU06.handout.pdf

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Thumb Down

it's not for fighting terror

the reason my - the german - gouvernment is not fighting terror. it's to gain a means of total control over the whole population. now it's said to be against terrorists, later it will be used against criminals, then against mere suspects and then against everyone. slowly, step by step, until we got our gestapo / stasi back.

they introduced fingerprints to our travel passports on rfid-chips. they will introduce it to our normal id, now they don't store them but in a couple of years they will.

it's all developing towards a 1984-scenario. slowly but surely. you'll see.

forgive my lousy english, me's just a kraut

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Tamil Tigers are Maoist?

This is the first time I've heard of it. And what's the snide remark about atheists? There are just as many people killed by religious zealots as there are by atheists.

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Law enforcement armoury

"Ziercke argued that the ability to plant "Trojan horse" spyware on the PCs of suspected terrorists would be an important tool in the armoury of law enforcement officials."

Other important tools in the armoury of law enforcement officials include: guns, sticks, pepper spray, cattle prods (now with improved range and known as Tasers), shrink wrap + water, shackles, thick clothing + the Sun + open ground, blindfolds, ear muffs and other sensory deprivation paraphenalia, and thin glass tubes suitable for insertion into the urethra before shattering.

This is in addition to the unquestioning support and obediance of large sections of the public and media, the ability to already invade our privacy to an unprecedented extent, and an effective licence to kill given the fact that no law enforcement official has ever been given a significant punishment for killing an innocent man.

Isn't the armoury of law enforcement officials big enough already?

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Stop

@Tony & Marco

You are not one of those who actually believes Al Qaeda exists as anything other than one or two crazy old men with no real power and no real threat? You are aware that Al Qaeda is a CIA creation? Surly you are aware that the GWOT is a Neo-Con invention designed to make a few rich men in the Military Industrial Complex richer?

White Hats indeed. If any policing organization resorts to criminal activity (and cracking is criminal in most civilized countries) then they are part of the problem, not the solution.

Come on... when will we collectively wake up and realize we have been handed a big black lie? When will we figure out that the vast majority of Terrorists are us... the greedy west, not Muslims.

When, when when, will humanity grow up and end this nonsense once and for all?

Dear God, let these ignorant men get an education and start thinking for themselves, instead of just accepting what they are told...

Stop the world, I want to get off....

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