Swiss coder publicises government spy Trojan

'MegaPanzer' made public on GPL license no less.

A software engineer who created Trojans for the Swiss authorities to intercept Voice-over-IP (VoIP) phone calls has published the source code to his programs in order to draw attention to the surveillance threat posed by such software.

As reported by Techworld in October 2006, Ruben Unteregger's ex-employer, ERA IT Solutions, tasked him with writing a 'white' Trojan capable of intercepting, recording and uploading Skype and other VoIP calls - software subsequently used by the Swiss Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (UVEK).

The technique of recording voice calls as MP3 files in situ neatly sidestepped Skype's main anti-wiretapping feature, namely its use of strong, proprietary encryption. However, it did first require that the program had to somehow find its way on to the monitored individual's PC using Trojan-like software subterfuge.

Now Unteregger has explained in an interview why he has made available the source code and compiled binary to two of his 'Bundestrojaner', or government Trojans, dubbed 'MiniPanzer' and 'MegaPanzer' (shorn only of some of their backdoor and firewall-bypassing code) under the GPL license.

"There won't be problems about copyright, because ERA IT Solutions let me keep it," says Unteregger in a translated interview. "The code will be published, it will get analysed as soon as the binaries got uploaded, signature patterns will be created by anti-virus companies, the malware will be detected, blocked and deleted, if it tries to infect a system."

Unteregger's motivation in making public the source code of his appears to be to draw attention to the insecurity of programs such as Skype, while staying on the right side of a confidentiality agreement he signed with ERA on which companies and agencies have been using his software. Publishing the code will also render its use redundant by security agencies.

An accompanying video showing how Trojans can be used to steal from online banks has been removed from the websites on which it was published, apparently to allay security concerns.

Trojan-based snooping of one sort or another is probably common among European police, with reports of such activities emerging in Germany and Austria in recent times. What is less clear-cut is the legality of such intrusive surveillance given the malware-like techniques necessary to infect the PCs of those being watched.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John E. Dunn

Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Cate Bacon

Aruba Instant On AP11D

The strength of the Aruba Instant On AP11D is that the design and feature set support the modern, flexible, and mobile way of working.

Dr Prabigya Shiwakoti

Aruba Instant On AP11D

Aruba backs the AP11D up with a two-year warranty and 24/7 phone support.

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers


This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang


It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?