The Swiss authorities have confessed to using a controversial computer spy software of the type currently at the centre of a scandal in Germany.
The action was carried out as part of counter terrorism efforts. Justice ministry spokesman Guido Balmer confirmed on Thursday evening reports that had appeared in various media outlets.
“The federal law enforcement authorities and those in canton Zurich have used this software in individual cases for the clarification of serious crimes,” Balmer was quoted by the Swiss news agency as saying.
This was carried out on the orders of the cantonal or federal prosecutor in charge and had a court’s approval. Voice and text messages were intercepted, while computers were not accessed, Balmer said.
Germany’s justice minister has called for a national and state level probe into the use of the software to spy on people. Bavaria has admitted using it, but has claimed that it acted within the law, and three other states are reported to have also used it as well.
The Trojan horse software can, for example, run checks on someone’s computer without their knowledge or conduct audio-visual surveillance though the microphone or webcam. But its systematic use has been declared unconstitutional in Germany.
A German hacker group exposed the scandal.