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Austrian Secret Service given thumbs up to Trojan-bug PCs

Austria has become one of the first countries in the world to officially sanction the use of Trojan Horse malware to monitor the computers of suspected terrorists and criminals.

The move, announced late last week by Gunther Plater, the Austrian Interior Minister, will come as something of a shock to privacy watchers, said Geoff Sweeney, CTO of Tier-3, the behavioural software IT security firm.

"This is because Austria, a politically neutral country, has always been right up there alongside Switzerland in terms of personal and company privacy," he said.

"Minister Plater has said that the Trojan malware will only be used against suspected terrorists and serious criminals, and will require a court order. That isn't much protection, and I am extremely concerned about this software falling into the wrong hands," he added.

“I'm sure the Austrian Secret Service will develop some pretty ingenious software to infect users' PCs, but there is a real danger that the package could leak into the hacker community.

That scenario would create a serious free-for-all on the industrial espionage and identity theft fronts as legitimate trojans are redirected to create an even more hostile environment for organisations to defend against increasing the need to use behavioural protection software and anomaly detection to defend themselves against a prevalence of Trojans.” Sweeney continued.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.