• Germany's news in English

BND to hire hackers to check shopping carts

Tom Barfield · 10 Nov 2014, 14:15

Published: 10 Nov 2014 11:48 GMT+01:00
Updated: 10 Nov 2014 14:15 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reported on Monday that the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) will spend €28 million in 2015 on its 'Strategic Technical Initiative” (SIT).

A confidential report seen by the newspaper showed that spies have asked a parliamentary oversight committee for a total of €300 million for the SIT programme between 2015 and 2020. Over €6 million has already been spent in 2014 laying the groundwork.

They say that the aim of the programme is to penetrate foreign social networks and create an early warning system for cyber attacks.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert confirmed to dpa on Monday that the BND had worked with French computer security firm Vupen, which is known to sell details of security holes to governments, in the past.

But the new money was being spent to "strengthen the available technical base" at the BND and reduce its reliance on outside contractors, he said.

Splashing cash on security grey market

Confidential plans seen by the SZ and broadcasters WDR and NDR show that the BND said it would spend €4.5 million to help it find security holes in the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol used by millions of web services to protect personal information.

There is a lively grey market online among hackers and security researchers for "zero day" exploits, so called because they are undiscovered and internet users have had no time to prepare for them.

But rather than fixing the security problems, the spies want to use them for surveillance.

The programme to penetrate SSL, codenamed Nitidezza, would also target the HTTPS protocol which is the standard for many banks, online shops, webmail providers and social networks.

“Holes in SSL need to be patched [fixed] because it is ubiquitous and everyone depends on it for their security," said Jim Killock of London-based digital rights NGO Open Rights Group.

"There is a real risk that failing to fix problems means criminal gangs will seek to obtain the same data using the same defects."

Killock's sentiments were echoed by internet activists in Germany, with German Pirate Party president Stefan Körner arguing that “we should expect that a responsible intelligence service would do everything to fix holes in our security infrastructure..

“If this is the strategy of the government for our security, we should fear them and their intelligence agencies more than the danger of cyber-terror that they're always hyping.”

Körner and other critics argue that the government should not be funding the grey market in internet security holes with taxpayers' money.

“Supporting the market for security holes is a very bad idea from the government's point of view,” Michael Waidner of the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology told Spiegel.

Every weak point was a serious risk for the country's own citizens, government agencies and businesses, Waidner said, because it could never be certain who else had access to the loopholes.

'Attack on fundamental rights'

Story continues below…

Activist hacker collective the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) released a statement saying that the plans were "a serious and unacceptable attack on our fundamental rights".

CCC spokesman Dirk Engling said that the government should not have an interest in keeping security holes open.

A BND spokesman contacted by The Local said the agency would not comment on operational matters.

While the BND is legally forbidden from conducting spying operations inside Germany, it has worked closely together with foreign intelligence agencies including the American National Security Agency (NSA).

Following the revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden about the NSA's far-reaching internet surveillance programmes, a recent poll showed that Germans believe foreign spies are the biggest threat to their liberty.

SEE ALSO: Snowden gives up Germany asylum hopes

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Tom Barfield (tom.barfield@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German town, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd