State Trojans - Authorities hack hundreds of computers a year

A Statistics (PDF) of the Federal Office of Justice (BjV) reveals that investigative authorities of the federal and state governments hacked into computers and smartphones of suspects in several hundred cases in 2019. According to the data, which was published for the first time, there were a total of 600 procedures for so-called source telecommunication surveillance (Quellen-TKÜ) and online searches in Germany. Of these, 380 were actually implemented. The statistics do not show how many devices were successfully hacked.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (95), Lower Saxony (89) and Saxony (76) had the most proceedings. The Federal Public Prosecutor's Office and six federal states did not use the still relatively new investigative methods at all in 2019. The most frequent use of source tKÜ is in investigations into drug offences.

"An order may have authorized the monitoring of more than one telephone number or identifier, so that the number of orders shown is not identical to the number of telephone numbers or other identifiers monitored."


Source TKÜ against encrypted communication

According to § 100a Code of Criminal Procedure (StPO), the Source-TKÜ is mainly used to intercept encrypted communications. Unencrypted communications, on the other hand, can be evaluated by the investigating authorities via conventional surveillance orders. In 2019, this was authorised in 5,252 criminal proceedings in 18,225 cases.

Online searches are rarely used

The so-called online search, on the other hand, is used much less frequently, which is due to the fact that the threshold for intervention according to § 100b of the StPO is significantly higher. In contrast to source CCTV, this investigative method not only monitors the communications of suspects, but also reads out stored data.

According to the Statistics (PDF) of the BfJ, online searches were applied for only 20 times in 2019 and implemented 12 times. Half of the applications came from Bavaria. The Federal Public Prosecutor as well as the federal states of Baden-Württemberg, Berlin, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein and Thuringia did not use online searches or source tapping.

No details on the technical implementation

The statistics do not reveal how source tapping and online searches were technically implemented. However, the federal government recently answered a written question by MP Dieter Dehm (Left Party) that technical problems often make hacking terminal devices more difficult.

"Source CCTV and online searches are usually limited to a few cases due to a very high operational effort and technical difficulties and can therefore rarely be actually used in practice."

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