Activists, journalists or just the average concerned citizen who want to know if their computers and mobile devices are a target of unwanted surveillance now have access to a badly needed resource. A German security researcher named Claudio Guarnieri is behind a free new security tool named Detekt. It scans PCs and mobile devices for traces of surveillance spyware that everyday anti-malware programs are likely to miss.
According to Wired Guarnieri works with The Honeypot Project and Shadowserver Foundation developing open source tools.
Amnesty news describes what Detekt is and how it works:
Detekt is a free tool that scans your computer for traces of known surveillance spyware used by governments to target and monitor human rights defenders and journalists around the world. By alerting them to the fact that they are being spied on, they will have the opportunity to take precautions.
It was developed by security researchers and has been used to assist in Citizen Lab's investigations into government use of spyware against human rights defenders, journalists and activists as well as by security trainers to educate on the nature of targeted surveillance.
Amnesty International is partnering with Privacy International, Digitale Gesellschaft and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to release Detekt to the public for the first time.
The release of Detekt is certainly timely given the growing number of cyber threats. As this Guardian article reports the trade in surveillance technologies has shown massive growth over recent years. Surveillance software is being sold to governments and agencies that have no scruples about exploiting it in order to spy on PCs, email, text messages and phone calls of people on their watch list.
Wired UK quotes Marek Marczynski, head of security at Amnesty who had this to say about Detekt and the need for such a tool: "Governments are increasingly using dangerous and sophisticated technology that allows them to read activists and journalists' private emails and remotely turn on their computer's camera or microphone to secretly record their activities... Detekt is a simple tool that will alert activists to such intrusions so they can take action."
Detekt developer Claudio Guarnieri was part of a team that discovered that FinFisher surveillance spyware was showing up on the computers of government and law enforcement agencies worldwide. FinFisher command and control centers have been found in some 35 countries. Recently Wikileaks released copies of FinFisher software in order to further the effort of tech researchers in coming up with counter measures.
When it comes to comparisons between Detekt and commercial security software, Guarnieri is quoted in media reports saying: "Antivirus software is rigorously evaded every time this kind of spyware is released and used. We are using detection techniques that have proved to be successful up to this point, and the goal is to provide it to the public and have the quickest and largest adoption possible."
He went on to say: "I want to empower just about anyone, the ones that do not have resources to acquire noisy and intrusive security software and the ones that are perhaps even prevented from buying any due to economic embargoes... I'm not really interested in drawing a comparison with security vendors, they have a different audience and a different scope. I'm interested in empowering the people with a choice to opt out from surveillance. What companies are doing for profit does not interest me."
Amnesty International, Digitale Gesellschaft, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Privacy International are working together to get Detekt out to their networks.
If you would like to download the software and give it a try you can do so from resistsurveillance.org. When running Detekt disconnect from the internet and run the program as administrator.