Spyware for your Cell Phone

Who said that wireless devices can’t be easily hacked?

Well, maybe it’s still not that easy to drop spyware on a stranger’s cell phone, but apparently it’s not quite as difficult to sneak a peek at whatever it is that your child, spouse or employee — or anyone else who is dense enough to pass you their phone for a few minutes — has been up to on their handheld.

A Taiwanese company named Vervata released a new version of a program named FlexiSPY on June 12 that promises the ability for people to track a wide range of usage details on Blackberry, Windows Mobile, and the Nokia Series 60 phones, among many other models.

Unlike computer-borne spyware or most real-world computing hacks, the system can only be downloaded by someone who has physical access to a device — but the implications are pretty scary and give you an idea of what types of spying mobile malware may be capable of someday soon.

Among the many capabilities of the program — advertised as a legitimate product for use by concerned parents, jilted lovers or suspicious bosses — FlexiSPY promises the chance for users to silently view all of the SMS text messages and e-mails that have been sent from and received by a phone carrying the application, as well as view their call logs and pinpoint device usage locations.

So much for any hope of privacy kids.

After someone has installed the program on a device it can only be accessed using a password and the software uploads any information it gathers to a secure server via GPRS. This allows for remote viewing and analysis of such contents, essentially giving that person everything but the ability to eavesdrop on the device owner’s phone conversations.

The data can be viewed using either a PC or another handheld device once it is collected, according to the manufacturer. A Pro version of the product also claims the ability for users to secretly turn on an infected device’s microphone from any other phone and listen to their surroundings for clues where they might be, or perhaps who they might be with.

Vervata claims that FlexiSPY has already been employed by large numbers of people worldwide to uncover extramarital affairs, disloyal employee activities, and to allow parents to track their children’s device use.

The company said that the product is also being used by law enforcement officials — presumably to spy on potential suspects — and said that it is similarly helpful as a cost control mechanism, and for supporting compliance and mobile data backup efforts.

“We’ve received numerous testimonials from customers who have caught their spouses cheating on them, their children behaving inappropriately, and from company executives who have used FlexiSPY to nab disloyal employees,” Atir Raihan, managing director of Vervata, said in a statement.

The company stresses repeatedly that FlexiSPY is neither a Trojan nor a virus and doesn’t attempt to hide itself as some other type of program once it is downloaded onto a device.

Rather, the firm is pitching it as more of a parental controls enforcement tool for wireless devices.

“While spying on people may seem unethical, cheating spouses, rogue employees sharing private company data, or unsuspecting children receiving SMS messages from pedophiles are all activities nobody wants to see happen,” Raihan said. “FlexiSPY is just like the various software applications that have been around for years that you can install on your PC to monitor inappropriate activities; we’ve brought that technology to the mobile platform.”

So, the lesson is — watch what you say or write on those cell phones people, you never know who may be watching or listening.

Posted by Matt Hines on June 12, 2007 12:43 PM