U.S. charges man over selling of cellphone spyware app

Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:45pm EDT
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By Marina Lopes

WASHINGTON, Sept 29 (Reuters) - In their first criminal case on mobile spyware, U.S. authorities have charged a man who sold a cell phone app that surreptitiously recorded phone calls and intercepted texts and emails when it was installed on a target's phone, the Department of Justice said on Monday.

For almost four years, Hammad Akbar, chief executive officer of a private company called InvoCode, sold an app known as StealthGenie, capable of recording conversations within a 15-foot radius, according to the indictment.

The app also recorded phone calls as they were made, monitored emails, photographs and calendars without the knowledge of the user. It worked on the Apple's iPhone, Google's Android and the Blackberry.

Akbar, 31, of Lahore, Pakistan, was arrested in Los Angeles last week and is being charged with conspiracy, selling and advertising a surreptitious interception device.

He was expected to appear before a judge in the Central District of California on Monday.

To install the app, customers needed physical control of the target's phone for just a few minutes. It then sent all intercepted messages to the customer's account. The information could be viewed at any computer with access to the Internet, according to the indictment.

The company's business plan said it expected customers suspecting their partners of infidelity to constitute 65 percent of the apps purchasers.

"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. (Reporting by Marina Lopes; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)