Germany’s security forces will have the technology to install surveillance software on cellphones before the end of the year, a leaked document shows. Police plan to use private firms to skirt legal dilemmas. A new version of the German police’s Remote Communication Interception Software (RCIS) will be ready for use before the end of the year.


Unlike the previous version of the program, which was limited to surveillance only over desktop computers, the new software will be able to hack into smartphones and tablets with Android, iOS and Blackberry operating systems.

It can also circumvent the encryption systems built into various anonymous messaging services such as WhatsApp or Telegram by hacking directly into the devices themselves and obtaining the messages directly from the “source” – the users’ screens.

In June, the German Bundestag adopted a law that allowed the police to hack into messengers such as WhatsApp using “state trojans” to intercept user communications before they are encrypted on their devices as well as to gain full access to their chat messages, video recordings or other private data.

The law also gave police power to hack into the devices of all people suspected of any criminal activity – not just those who are suspected of terrorism.However, the leak showed that the new version of the surveillance software that allowed hacking into smartphones and spying on anonymous messengers has been in development by the German Federal Criminal Police (BKA) since at least the beginning of 2016 – almost a year and a half before the security service was legally allowed to develop such software.

The document obtained by Netzpolitik also revealed that the BKA purchased commercially developed surveillance software, the FinSpy, as early as in 2012. It was originally regarded as a potential substitution for state-developed software that could be used during a “transition period” between the BKA receiving allowance to hack into people’s devices and developing its own surveillance program.
Later, the BKA decided to keep it as a backup in case of its own software being compromised.

However, it has not yet used the software, despite paying some €150,000 for it over five years, as it is able to go well beyond the restrictions set in the law, the document says.

FinSpy, developed by Gamma International in Munich, is able to record all calls and messages on a mobile device as well as remotely turn on its microphone and camera and locate and track the device in real time.

FinSpy’s manufacturer has already altered the software three times to make it compatible with German law, Netzpolitik reports.

The latest developments have provoked criticism from activists and politicians, who believe that massive state surveillance will eventually compromise people’s security instead of protecting them against any threats.

“To sell state hacking as just another surveillance measure like any other is, in the face of the newly published papers, a brazen distortion of the truth,” the Chaos Computer Club spokesman, Falk Garbsch, told Netzpolitik. “An arsenal of Trojans is being built as if it were already normal for the state to hack the digital brains of its citizens.”

Frank Herrmann, a member of Germany’s Pirate Party, warned that hacking directly into mobile devices could lead to more serious consequences than monitoring phone calls. “People don’t realize that this malware endangers the security of the whole device,” he told Deutsche Welle, adding that “the technological intervention is much more severe than just listening in on a phone call.”

In the meantime, Erin Omanovic, an activist of the UK-based NGO Privacy International, told Deutsche Welle that similar measures aimed at giving security services the right to hack into people’s electronic devices are being taken not only in Germany but also in many other countries.

“We’re seeing efforts to legislate for hacking powers in the UK, in Austria, in Italy, and Germany,” he said.

“Some of these capabilities have already been practiced across Europe,” Omanovic said. “The UK, for example, has been engaged in hacking, but just hasn’t legalized it. There’s a complete lack of safeguards and oversight over the use of this type of technology.”

“And there have been some examples of misuse by governments around the world. For example, there’s evidence that FinSpy was used to target human rights activists and lawyers in Bahrain,” the activist added.


#NSMQ2017: Adisco boys were ‘intimidated’ by crowd – Dr. Kaufmann

The host of the National Science and Maths Quiz, Dr. Elsie Effah Kaufmann, has suggested that then defending champions Adisadel College, might have been intimidated by the crowd in the final of the 2017 competition. The grand finale, held at the National Theatre, was eventually won by Prempeh College who garnered 53 points, edging past second-placed St. Thomas Aquinas by two points.

However, social media was dominated by talk of the performance of Adisadel College, represented by  Edward De-Graft, Vanderpuije Quansah and Sylvanus Afful Assan-Annobil, who finished way behind on 31 points. The highly-patronized final saw many old students of the participating schools join the crowd at the National Theatre to cheer on their contestants. Speaking on the Citi Breakfast Show on Monday, Dr. Kaufmann stated that, the two contestants’ performance might have been affected by the increased attention despite her attempts to get them to relax. “Adisadel, on the final day, was not looking as confident as the Adisadel we had seen previously. The young men – De-Graft and Annobil – they seemed intimidated by the crowd. Every time I see that in a contestant, it bothers me. I tried to make some jokes to get them to relax but they were still so tense,” she said. “The [contestants] can practice all they like at home and in their schools, but when they get onto the stage with the lights and the microphones, it’s a problem so they need to adjust quickly to deal with that kind of stress.

‘Prempeh were amazing’ Dr. Kaufmann also praised the champions, Prempeh College for their stunning performances throughout the competition, culminating in their win at the tournament. She noted their record 82-point haul in their Quarterfinal which she acknowledged as impressive, despite having docked them two points for “indiscipline” in that contest. According to her, the contestants from the school might have tried to intimidate the other contestants by ringing their bells while the students from the other schools were speaking. Dr. Kaufmann, however, added that, Wonder Sarfo-Ansah and Daniel Osei Badu were a formidable team who could challenge any other in the world. “[Prempeh College] were amazing honestly. [The quarter-final] was the contest where I actually penalized them. So my advice to them after that was to work on their discipline.” “I penalized them on two occasions in the same contest and yet they still got 82. It was a very strong team and on a good day, they could answer any question.  They were good.”