The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is swooping down on the mobile spyware market. The FBI’s first arrest involved the CEO of a UK-based company that sells a spyware app to individuals who suspect their romantic partners of cheating on them.
Hammad Akbar, 31, from Lehoro, Pakistan is the CEO of StealthGenie, who was arrested by FBI over the weekend in Los Angeles for flogging StealthGenie spyware application and now faces a number of federal charges. The cell phone spyware application, known 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.
According to the US Department of Justice, Hammad Akbar operates a software company called InvoCode, which sells the StealthGenie spyware app online that can intercept communications to and from mobile phones including Apple, Google, 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.
StealthGenie spyware application, according to the law enforcement agency, is able to:
- Record all incoming/outgoing 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.
FBI Reported that StealthGenie was hosted on Amazon Web Services servers in Ashburn, Virginia.
According to the indictment, the StealthGenie spyware app business plan states that the company expects at least 65 percent of its customers to be spouses who want to monitor their partners whom they suspect of having an affair. However, a disclaimer on its website says StealthGenie requires all users to use the app only in a lawful manner and discourages users against using the app for “sneaky purposes.”
Our software is designed for monitoring your children or employees on a smartphone you own or have proper consent to monitor,” says StealthGenie on a cached copy of its website, which has since been taken down by the FBI. “You must notify users of the smartphone that they are being monitored.
StealthGenie software must not be used to ‘Stalk’ or ‘Spy’ anyone,” StealthGenie adds. “StealthGenie software must not be used to monitor the smartphone of a spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, child over 18 without their written consent.
Akbar faces indictment charges of 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.