For more than two years, researchers and rights activists have tracked the proliferation and abuse of computer spyware that can watch people in their homes and intercept their e-mails. Now they’ve built a tool that can help the targets protect themselves.
The free, downloadable software, called Detekt, searches computers for the presence of malicious programs that have been built to evade detection. The spyware ranges from government-grade products used by intelligence and police agencies to hacker staples known as RATs—remote administration tools. Detekt, which was developed by security researcher Claudio Guarnieri, is being released in a partnership with advocacy groups Amnesty International, Digitale Gesellschaft, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Privacy International.
Guarnieri says his tool finds hidden spy programs by seeking unique patterns on computers that indicate a specific malware is running. He warns users not to expect his program (which is available only for Windows machines) to find all spyware, and notes that the release of Detekt could spur malware developers to further cloak their code.