The Electronic Frontier Foundation, security expert Bruce Schneier, and 23 others have called on antivirus providers around the world to protect their users against malware spawned by the National Security Agency and other groups that carry out government surveillance.
The move comes amid revelations that the NSA has a wide-ranging menu of software exploits at its disposal that have been used to identify users of the Tor anonymity service, track iPhone users, and monitor the communications of surveillance targets. Schneier has said that the NSA only relies on these methods when analysts have a high degree of confidence that the malware won't be noticed. That means detection by AV programs could make the difference between such attacks succeeding, failing, or being used at all.
"As a manufacturer of antivirus software, your company has a vital position in providing security and maintaining the trust of internet users as they engage in sensitive activities such as electronic banking," the 25 signatories wrote in an open letter sent on Thursday to AV companies. "Consequently, there should be no doubt that your company's software provides the security needed to maintain this trust."