A state trojan is when a government authority places a secret, hidden spy program on your computer, smartphone, tablet or server. It can be used to monitor everything you do. No matter if you use encryption or safe messaging apps. What you see, the police and intelligence authorities will see. Every keystroke can be tracked, often in real time. All your files can be accessed. All your communications can be scrutinized.
And, in the words of the founder of state intelligence, Cardinal Richelieu… “If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.”
Many countries are already using state spy trojans for surveillance. And others are to follow suit. At the moment countries like Spain and Sweden are trying to rush legislation trough.
State trojans are usually not used for mass surveillance. (But they can be.) At least not in most countries — where some sort or court order or other judicial process under the rule of law will apply before the trojan is being launched. So, the main problem in most cases is not about people’s right to privacy in general. This is targeted surveillance. But of course, it can be misused and/or used too generously.
The real problem is that state (and other) spy trojans will make our computers and entire IT systems vulnerable. In turn, this can be used by criminals, by foreign governments and by others interested in you, your communications and your data.
And what will happen when governments are using the same sort of tools as criminals? In the words of Amelia Andersdotter and Christer Spörndly… “The logical, and very disturbing, consequence is that there will be no incitement to identify and stop security vulnerabilities.” There are no security glitches only accessible for the government. If you leave a door open, it is open for everyone.
And to build these spy trojans, governments will have to use some sort of known security vulnerabilities. Or even worse, they might buy spyware from external developers — who also have other customers…
State spy trojans are a nightmare. They will make us all less safe.