Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus

Amnesty and Privacy International are offering a free-of-charge spyware detection tool designed to help journalists and human rights activists stay one step ahead of government surveillance.

The Windows-only Detekt anti-spyware tool is designed to be a supplement, rather than an alternative, to pre-existing anti-virus protection. It's an extra layer that can identify potential government spyware or commercial spyware tools, such as FinFisher.

"It was intended as a triaging utility for human rights workers travelling around. It is not an AV," explained developer Claudio Guarnieri in an online discussion about the tool with other security researchers.

The tool provides "researchers, human rights workers, journalists and others who suspect they are targets of unlawful surveillance with the means to easily test their computers for known spyware" [our emphasis]. Digitale Gesellschaft and the Electronic Frontier Foundation partnered in its development.

Doubts about the approach have centered upon whether privacy firms will be able to push out new definitions fast enough as new trojans variants are developed, as well as more general concerns about the effectiveness of anti-virus scanners.

Detekt had been privately used prior to the "strategic decision" to make it public, according to Guarnieri, who worked with researchers from Citizen Lab on its development. A FAQ from Amnesty International on the tool can be found here.

"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," said Marek Marczynski, head of military, security and police at Amnesty International in a statement.

"Detekt is a simple tool that will alert activists to such intrusions so they can take action. It represents a strike back against governments who are using information obtained through surveillance to arbitrarily detain, illegally arrest and even torture human rights defenders and journalists," he added. ®

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