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Published On: Mon, Nov 24th, 2014

Is your PC spying on you?

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If news of the discovery of Regin, a piece of ultra-sophisticated government-issued spyware that has been infecting PCs around the world, has you reaching for the wall socket to unplug your PC, you might like to consider Detekt, some anti-spyware software just released by Amnesty International.

The human rights group is so concerned about government-sponsored computer surveillance, it’s teamed up with the Digitale Gesellschaft, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Privacy International to release the free counter measure, which will scan your PC for the sorts of nasties that governments have been using to spy on activists.

Note I said “PC”. The Detekt anti-spyware application is only for Windows machines. If you’re on a Mac or a Chromebook, you’re on your own as far as Amnesty is concerned.

Though, it’s when you’re not on your own, but think you are, that Amnesty is concerned about here.

“In recent years we have witnessed a huge growth in the adoption and trade in communication surveillance technologies. Such spyware provides the ability to read personal emails, listen-in skype conversations or even remotely turn on a computers camera and microphone without its owner knowing about it,” the blurb on the Detekt website reads.

The freedom fighters aren’t pretending that Detekt will detect every sort of malware. Just some “commercial surveillance spyware that has been identified to be also used to target and monitor human rights defenders and journalists around the world”.

For something like Regin, the unbelievably sophisticated piece of spyware just identified by Symantec, you may need something more powerful, however.

Here is what Symantec had to say over the weekend. It makes for scary reading:

An advanced piece of malware, known as Regin, has been used in systematic spying campaigns against a range of international targets since at least 2008.

A back door-type Trojan, Regin is a complex piece of malware whose structure displays a degree of technical competence rarely seen. Customisable with an extensive range of capabilities depending on the target, it provides its controllers with a powerful framework for mass surveillance and has been used in spying operations against government organizations, infrastructure operators, businesses, researchers, and private individuals.

It is likely that its development took months, if not years, to complete and its authors have gone to great lengths to cover its tracks. Its capabilities and the level of resources behind Regin indicate that it is one of the main cyberespionage tools used by a nation state.

Oh my.

The Australian Financial Review

BY JOHN DAVIDSON

John DavidsonJohn Davidson is the award-winning sketch writer in charge of Australia’s pre-eminent (but sadly fictitious) Digital Life Laboratories. A former computer programmer, documentary maker and foreign correspondent, John now reviews all the gadgets he can ill afford to own.

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