Officials in a number of German state governments have owned up to using the Quellen-TK
Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said on Monday that interception of encrypted telecommunications using Quellen-TK
The legal restrictions on the use of such intercept software on PCs were set out in a 2008 ruling by Germany's Federal Constitutional Court, and require among other things that the software used be capable only of recording voice calls, much as a traditional wiretap would, and not be capable of eavesdropping at other times, or of capturing other data from the PC, such as screenshots or files.
Despite his reassurances about the legality of the Quellen-TK
Doubts about the legality of the software were raised over the weekend by the Berlin-based Chaos Computer Club (CCC), which discovered that the software could accept instructions to download and activate new surveillance functions. CCC also discovered that those instructions were not authenticated: the software it tested will accept them from anyone, not just law enforcement officers.
After Bavaria's admission, the Ministry of the Interior for the German state of Baden-W
Its use of Quellen-TK
The German state of Hessen has also used Quellen-TK
However, he said he would seek clarification from the German Federal Interior Minister and discuss the matter with interior ministers from other German states.
Two other states, Brandenburg and Lower Saxony, have also admitted using software to intercept encrypted voice communications on suspects' PCs, according to local media reports.
Brandenburg police used the same Quellen-TK
German Federal Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said that a "comprehensive and complete investigation" of the use of the software was now necessary to maintain German citizens' confidence in the rule of law.
The Federal Interior Ministry is now conducting inquiries to find out whether the monitoring software has been used by police authorities across Germany, but that ministry is not responsible for intelligence agencies such as the Federal Intelligence Service, Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said in an interview with the Passauer Neue Presse, a transcript of which was published in German on the Justice Ministry's website on Tuesday.
Peter Sayer covers open source software, European intellectual property legislation and general technology breaking news for IDG News Service. Send comments and news tips to Peter at email@example.com.