Iranian, Syrian dissidents targeted with internet spyware


Dirk Engling, of Chaos Computer Club, shows the control software for the Trojan spyware allegedly made by the German authorities (R) monitoring the traffic on a remote computer (L). The club cracked the spying software that could allow German authorities to peer through webcams. The news has sparked outrage among politicians and media commentators.


Odd Andersen

The Iranian anti-censorship software called "Simurgh" has been popular among Syrians and Iranians hoping to get easier access to more websites. But University of Toronto researchers have found a malicious copy of the software that secretly installs spyware on users' computers.

Simurgh was designed to help users browse the internet anonymously, as well as allowing access to blocked sites. But the added Trojan on the malicious copy will no longer make web-browsing anonymous. Rather, it will store information about a computer operator's user name, every window that user clicked, and every keystroke that user made. All of that data will then be sent to another site registered with a Saudi Arabian ISP, BBC News reported

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"This Trojan has been specifically crafted to target people attempting to evade government censorship," Morgan Marquis-Boire, a technical adviser at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs, told the BBC.

The Trojan should be detected by most anti-virus software, CNET reported, but such software won't necessarily get rid of the spyware, even if it detects it. The researchers are advising people to only download Simurgh from trusted sources. Simurgh has also posted warnings to users about the spyware.