Magic Lantern (software)

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Magic Lantern is keystroke logging software developed by the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation. Magic Lantern was first reported in a column by Bob Sullivan of MSNBC on 20 November 2001[1] and by Ted Bridis of the Associated Press.[2]


How it works

Magic Lantern can reportedly be installed remotely, via an e-mail attachment or by exploiting common operating system vulnerabilities, unlike previous keystroke logger programs used by the FBI.[3][4] It has been variously described as a virus and a Trojan horse. It is not known how the program might store or communicate the recorded keystrokes.


In response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed in 2000 by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the FBI released a series of unclassified documents relating to Carnivore, which included the "Enhanced Carnivore Project Plan". Sullivan's confidential source said that redacted portions of that document mention "Cyber Knight",

Example deployment method

The FBI intends to deploy Magic Lantern in the form of an e-mail attachment. When the attachment is opened, it installs a trojan horse on the suspect's computer. The trojan horse is activated when the suspect uses PGP encryption, often used to increase the security of sent e-mail messages. When activated, the trojan horse will log the PGP password, which allows the FBI to decrypt user communications.[5][6]

Spokesmen for the FBI soon confirmed the existence of a program called Magic Lantern. They denied that it had been deployed, and they declined to comment further.[7]

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