Antivirus firms balk at FBI loophole

Antivirus software vendors said Monday they don't want to create a loophole in their security products to let the FBI or other government agencies use a virus to eavesdrop on the computer communications of suspected criminals.

Under a project code named "Magic Lantern," the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is creating an e-mail-borne virus or Trojan horse that hides itself on the computer and captures all keystrokes made, including passwords that could be used to read encrypted mail, according to a report on MSNBC in November.

Despite subsequent reports to the contrary, officials at Symantec and Network Associates said they had no intention of voluntarily modifying their products to satisfy the FBI. Spokesmen at two other computer security companies, Japan-based Trend Micro and the U.S. subsidiary of U.K.-based Sophos made similar statements.

All four antivirus companies said they had not contacted or been contacted by the U.S. government on the matter.

We're in the business of providing a virus-free environment for our users and we're not going to do anything to compromise that security," said Tony Thompson of Network Associates.

"Symantec's first priority is to protect our customers from malicious and illegal attacks," Symantec Chief Executive John W. Thompson said in a statement. "We have no intention of creating or leaving a hole in our software that might compromise that security."

News source: CNet News

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