The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has arrested the CEO of a UK-based company for allegedly advertising and selling a spyware app to individuals who suspect their romantic partners of cheating on them.
The dodgy cell phone spyware application, dubbed as StealthGenie, monitors victims’ phone calls, text messages, videos, emails and other communications “without detection” when it is installed on a target’s phone, according to the Department of Justice.
The chief executive officer of a mobile spyware maker is a Pakistani man collared 31-year-old Hammad Akbar, of Lahore, who was arrested over the weekend in Los Angeles for flogging StealthGenie spyware application and now faces a number of federal charges.
According to the US Department of Justice, Akbar operates a company called InvoCode, which sold the StealthGenie spyware app online that can intercept communications to and from mobile phones including Apple, Google, and BlackBerry devices.
The company’s business plan for the product focused on “the spousal cheat” market, which was expected to constitute 65 percent of the StealthGenie app purchasers, as the plan even spelled that out, stating that the target audience was cheating spouses and romantic partners.
“According to our market research, the majority chunk of the sales will come from people suspecting their partners to be cheating on them or wanting to keep an eye on them,” the business plan stated according to the indictment.
Once installed on the phone, it allows conversations to be monitored as they take place, enables the purchaser to call the phone and activate it at any time to monitor all surrounding conversations within a 15-foot radius, and collects the user’s incoming and outgoing email and SMS messages, incoming voicemail, address book, calendar, photographs, and videos. All of these functions are enabled without the knowledge of the user of the phone.
StealthGenie spyware application, according to the law enforcement agency, is able to:
- Record all incoming/outgoing voice calls;
- Intercept calls on the phone to be monitored while they take place;
- Allow the attackers to call the phone and activate the app any time in order to monitor all surrounding conversations within a 15-foot radius;
- Monitor the user’s incoming and outgoing e-mail messages, SMS messages, incoming voicemail messages, address book additions, as well as Smartphones’ calendar, photographs, and videos.
The federal prosecutors said this case is the first time that the US Department of Justice has prosecuted someone for advertising and selling mobile device spyware apps that targets adults.
“Selling spyware is not just reprehensible, it’s a crime,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said in a statement. “Apps like StealthGenie are expressly designed for use by stalkers and domestic abusers who want to know every detail of a victim’s personal life–all without the victim’s knowledge.“
Akbar was charged with conspiracy, sale of a surreptitious interception device, advertisement of a known interception device and advertising a device as a surreptitious interception device in US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.