An aide to the German chancellor has become the victim of a cyber-attack, according to media. The highly-sophisticated Regin virus that was found on her infected USB stick is reported to be a product of British and US spy agencies.
Having written a draft of a speech at work, one of Angela Merkel’s senior staff members decided to take it home to polish it on her private laptop in the evening. When the head of the Department of European Policy brought the USB stick with the document back to her work computer, virus scanning software revealed that it was infected, according to Monday’s report of Bild newspaper.
The USB stick was infected with the Regin spying software, but additional checks revealed no other infections on any of the 200 other high-security laptops in the Chancellery, sources from German security services said.
Regin was first warned of at the end of November by cyber-security company Symantec. A back door-type Trojan is able to “provide its controllers with a powerful framework for mass surveillance.”
According to the report, the virus demonstrates such a “rare degree of technical competence” that indicates it has probably been developed by a nation state – and it could have taken years. Regin is able to fulfill a range of customizable tasks, such as making screenshots, controlling the mouse cursor and stealing passwords, depending on the target of a spying operation.
Media reports associated Regin with the US National Security Agency (NSA) and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The virus is believed to begin operating in 2008, targeting governments, infrastructure operators, researchers, as well as private individuals and businesses.
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