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To spy or not to spy on citizens? That's the question
[March 30, 2012]

To spy or not to spy on citizens? That's the question

Mar 30, 2012 (The Star - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ANN) -- Should governments use "trojan horse" programs or other computer hacking tools to spy on its citizens? Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer for network security solutions company F-Secure Corp, believes the end does not justify the means. But he admits that there is no clear answer.

"It's a problematic subject. As long as technology is used to catch drug smugglers or terrorists, that's great.

"But when a government places a trojan on the computer of an innocent person, it is a horrible wrongdoing," he said recently.

He was in Kuala Lumpur for a meeting at F-Secure's network security monitoring centre in Bangsar South, which covers the Asian region.

The problem has been compounded in recent times because terrorists and so-called "hacktivists" have no qualms about launching cyber attacks against governments and others.

So why shouldn't governments resort "to fighting fire with fire"? Hypponen said it was a question for each government to mull over because there was no one-size-fits-all solution.

He cited Germany as an example where a government-backed trojan program was set loose on public networks.

Controversy arose in Germany in October last year after a hacker group highlighted what it claimed was a government trojan program to spy on people, Hypponen said.

The program, apparently deployed to help law enforcement agencies, could record Skype calls, monitor online messages, log keystrokes on a computer and even take pictures of the screen.

Hypponen said he was glad to note that such trojan programs had not been deployed in Malaysia.

Last year, Hypponen tweeted about the Anonymous hacker group's threat to attack government websites in Malaysia, which later happened.

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