The FBI confirmed the active development of Magic Lantern, a keylogger intended to obtain passwords to encrypted e-mail and other documents during criminal investigations. Magic Lantern was first reported in the media by Bob Sullivan of MSNBC on 20 November 2001 and by Ted Bridis of the Associated Press. The FBI intends to deploy Magic Lantern in the form of an e-mail attachment. When the attachment is opened, it installs a trojan horse on the suspect's computer, which is activated when the suspect uses PGP encryption, often used to increase the security of sent e-mail messages. When activated, the trojan will log the PGP password, which allows the FBI to decrypt user communications. Symantec and other major antivirus vendors have whitelisted the Magic Lantern trojan, rendering their antivirus products, including Norton AntiVirus, incapable of detecting it. Concerns around this whitelisting include uncertainties about Magic Lantern's full surveillance potential and whether hackers could subvert it and redeploy it for purposes outside of law enforcement.
Graham Cluley, a technology consultant from Sophos, said "We have no way of knowing if it was written by the FBI, and even if we did, we wouldn’t know whether it was being used by the FBI or if it had been commandeered by a third party". Another reaction came from Marc Maiffret, chief technology officer and cofounder of eEye Digital Security who states: "Our customers are paying us for a service, to protect them from all forms of malicious code. It is not up to us to do law enforcement's job for them so we do not, and will not, make any exceptions for law enforcement malware or other tools."
Proponents of Magic Lantern argue the technology would allow law enforcement to efficiently and quickly decrypt time-sensitive messages protected by encryption schemes. Implementing Magic Lantern does not require physical access to a suspect's computer, unlike Carnivore, a predecessor to Magic Lantern, since physical access to a computer would require a court order. FBI spokesman Paul Bresson, in response to a question about whether Magic Lantern also needed a court order to deploy, would only say "Like all technology projects or tools deployed by the FBI it would be used pursuant to the appropriate legal process."
Tuesday, 7 February 2012
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