Commercially available NSA-style surveillance software allows everyday people to spy on smartphones
By Madison Ruppert
Editor of End the Lie
Everyday people can now use surveillance software to spy on the phone calls and text messages of others, somewhat like a crude version of the National Security Agency (NSA) spy programs.
However, the commercially produced software can’t really hold a candle to the U.S. government’s custom malware including software enabling the remote activation of cameras and microphones, ability to track cell phones even when they’re off and massive metadata collection and analysis programs.
Let’s not forget, the software also doesn’t have the world’s largest surveillance network backing it up either.
The use of spy software made available to the public is apparently quite widespread. A new study examined data traffic of mobile devices on a European carrier’s Middle Eastern network and found that hundreds of people had surveillance software installed on their phones, according to Bloomberg.
The software isn’t the product of malicious applications users unknowingly download. Instead, they’re spyware placed by people with physical access to the device.
Mobile surveillance software is capable of everything from secretly logging all text messages, phone calls and contacts to even live eavesdropping on phone calls.
The study, conducted by Lacoon Mobile Security, a San Francisco-based startup, found that over 600 phones on the particular network had spyware.
Lacoon does research and development in Israel, according to Bloomberg, and sells mobile security software to detect malicious mobile apps and defend corporate networks. The company was founded by former members of the Israel Defense Forces.
Most of the installations were likely done by either spouse or private investigators, according to Michael Shaulov, CEO of Lacoon.
Shaulov told Bloomberg that he expects the number of infected phones to grow as the awareness of surveillance technology increases.
While spouses and private investigators are one major source of this type of spyware, corporate espionage is another driving factor behind installation of spyware, according to Bloomberg.
Shaulov would not identify what carrier the study analyzed, but he did say that they got permission to conduct the study from the carrier.
The study analyzed wireless traffic to see the number of devices sending data to servers associated with spyware companies in order to determine how many phones were infected.
Almost half of the infected phones were linked to SpyToMobile, a product marketed directly to consumers.
SpyToMobile boasts of its ability to “intercept incoming and outgoing SMS messages, call history and contacts.”
The app collects data even when the phone doesn’t have an internet connection, then sends the information to SpyToMobile servers when the phone is reconnected to the internet.
It is also apparently able to track phones via GPS, as indicated by their frequently asked questions.
The SpyToMobile terms of service state that users can only install the software on phones that they own or obtain written authorization from the person being spied on, according to Bloomberg.
The company told Bloomberg via email that all users must accept their terms of service and that they have suspended accounts if they discovered the app was being used without the permission of the device’s owner.
Interestingly, Bloomberg noted that SpyToMobile is actually using the NSA spy scandal in their sales pitch.
SpyToMobile “said it does not share data with the NSA. At least, not knowingly,” Jordan Robertson wrote for Bloomberg.
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