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Police use of trojans to hack into mobile phones will become routine under new German law

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A new law allowing the German police to hack into mobile phones for even minor crimes, is expected to be passed by the German parliament this week. Currently, the use of a “Staatstrojaner” – government trojan – is only permitted in order to prevent future terrorist attacks. Under the new law, the authorities will be allowed to implant surveillance malware to help secure convictions for over 70 types of crime. These include serious ones such as genocide, treason and murder, but also less serious crimes such as money counterfeiting, vehicle theft, computer fraud, rigged sports betting and tax evasion. Two kinds of trojans will be available. The first allows the authorities to eavesdrop on calls made with the mobile phone, whether using standard telephony or VoIP, while the second gives access to all information held on the device.

In addition to the extremely broad extension of powers granted to the police, the new law is notable for the way it is being introduced. As an article on the digital rights blog Netzpolitik explains, in order to avoid public debate in a country that is understandably suspicious of any plans to increase government surveillance, the ruling coalition parties have resorted to subterfuge. Instead of introducing the law directly, politicians have added the ability to use government trojans more widely to unrelated legislation. The law in question will allow German courts to impose driving bans on those convicted of minor crimes, rather than sending them to prison. Clearly, that has nothing to do with surveillance, but is simply a way of moving the malware law through parliament with the minimum of visibility.

Although German politicians confirmed on Twitter that the vote on the malware law would take place this week, and would be supported by both of the main parties – and

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