Hammad Akbar, The head of a company that sells a spyware application StealthGenie for smartphones has been indicted and arrested for conspiracy and other charges related to surreptitious interception.
Undetectable and untraceable by most phone users, StealthGenie was allegedly being advertised by Hammad, the chief executive of the Pakistani-owned, UK-based company InvoCode.
The 31-year-old native of Lahore, Pakistan, is also one of the creators of the app, which can intercept communications to and from mobile phones, including Apple, Android and BlackBerry devices.
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.
“Selling spyware is not just reprehensible, it’s a crime,” Leslie Caldwell, assistant attorney general in the DOJ’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. He was arrested in Los Angeles on Saturday, and was expected to appear before a magistrate in the Central District of California Monday.
“This application allegedly equips potential stalkers and criminals with a means to invade an individual’s confidential communications,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge McCabe.
“They do this not by breaking into their homes or offices, but by physically installing spyware on unwitting victims’ phones and illegally tracking an individual’s every move. As technology continues to evolve, the FBI will investigate and bring to justice those who use illegal means to monitor and track individuals without their knowledge.”
The person who buys the app needs physical control of the phone only to install it – then they are able to control it remotely.
The company also marketed the app as a way for parents to track their children,
This is the first time charges have been brought against someone for spyware on the mobile market.
StealthGenie, among other spyware apps, is readily available online for the iPhone, Android and Blackberry.