Human rights experts and Privacy International have launched a free tool allowing users to scan their computers for surveillance spyware, typically used by governments and other organizations to spy on human rights activists and journalists around the world.
This free-of-charge anti-surveillance tool, called Detekt, is an open source software app released in partnership with Human rights charity Amnesty International, Germany’s Digitale Gesellschaft, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Privacy International, in order to combat government surveillance.
NEED AN EYE FOR AN EYE
The global surveillance carried out by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and other government agencies recently disclosed by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden shed light on just how far our own government can go to keep track of citizens, whether innocent or otherwise. Therefore, such tool will help them see if their devices have been infected by any spyware.
Detekt was developed by security researcher Claudio Guarnieri, who has been investigating government abuse of spyware for years and often collaborates with other researchers at University of Toronto's Citizen Lab.
> "It was intended as a triaging utility for human rights workers travelling around. It is not an AV [AntiVirus]," explained the developer Claudio Guarnieri in an online discussion about the tool on Twitter with other security researchers.
With the help of Detekt scanning tool in investigations, Guarnieri and his colleagues discovered, for example, that the Bahraini government used FinSpy, surveillance spyware developed by German firm FinFisher. Among other, FinSpy software has ability to monitor Skype conversations, take screenshots and photos using a device's camera, record microphone use, emails, voice-over-IP and extract files from hard discs.
Moreover, Guarnieri’s team also found that the Ethiopian government spied on journalists and activists in the U.S. and Europe, using a software developed by Hacking Team, another company that sells off-the-shelf surveillance tools, and similar companies.
> "Governments are increasingly using dangerous and sophisticated technology that allows them to read activists and journalists’ private emails and remotely turn on their computer’s camera or microphone to secretly record their activities," Amnesty head of military, security and police Marek Marczynski said in a statement. "They use the technology in a cowardly attempt to prevent abuses from being exposed."
> "Detekt is a simple tool that will alert activists to such intrusions so they can take action. It represents a strike back against governments who are using information obtained through surveillance to arbitrarily detain, illegally arrest and even torture human rights defenders and journalists."
DOWNLOAD DETEKT ANTI-SURVEILLANCE TOOL
You can Download Detekt here.
Detekt, for now, has been designed for Windows PC users to scan their machines for known surveillance spyware that its developers warn is used to target and monitor specifically human rights defenders and journalists across the globe. The tool is not yet supported on the 64-bit version of Windows 8.1.
Detekt scans computers for infection patterns associated with several families of remote access Trojans (RATs) including DarkComet RAT, XtremeRAT, BlackShades RAT, njRAT, FinFisher FinSpy, HackingTeam RCS, ShadowTech RAT and Gh0st RAT.
> "If Detekt does not find anything, this unfortunately cannot be considered a clean bill of health," the Detekt software's Readme file warns.
The tool can make you aware of the presence of spyware, but it is by no means 100 percent effective, and can’t detect all types of spywares. So, the human rights group is encouraging software developers to contribute to the project.