MS Windows, the FBI and Open Source

MSNBC – Nov. 20, 2001 The FBI is developing software capable of inserting a computer virus onto a suspect’s machine and obtaining encryption keys, a source familiar with the project told The software, known as "Magic Lantern," enables agents to read data that had been scrambled, a tactic often employed by criminals to hide information and evade law enforcement. The best snooping technology that the FBI currently uses, the controversial software called Carnivore, has been useless against suspects clever enough to encrypt their files.

MAGIC LANTERN installs so-called "keylogging" software on a suspect's machine that is capable of capturing keystrokes typed on a computer. By tracking exactly what a suspect types, critical encryption key information can be gathered, and then transmitted back to the FBI, according to the source, who requested anonymity.

The virus can be sent to the suspect via e-mail, perhaps sent for the FBI by a trusted friend or relative. The FBI can also use common vulnerabilities to break into a suspect's computer and insert Magic Lantern, the source said.

Magic Lantern is one of a series of enhancements currently being developed for the FBI's Carnivore project, the source said, under the umbrella project name of Cyber Knight.

Our Opinion

According to this declassified document and other sources, we at QeRN have determined that this will be successful only with the exploitation of the Windows operating system. It is virtually impossible to hide processes or resident software in Linux. Also, as the source is open, it is impossible for the government to sneak in hooks to their software. Linux is now a mature system which is becoming increasingly user-friendly.