Guilty: Mobile Spyware App Creator

Monday, December 1, 2014 @ 01:12 PM gHale

A Danish man pleaded guilty last week to selling a mobile spyware app that secretly monitored cell phone communications.

Hammad Akbar, 31, chief executive of InvoCode Pvt. Limited and Cubitium Limited, the companies that advertised and sold StealthGenie, the mobile spyware app that secretly monitored calls, texts and videos on mobile phones, according to a release by the Justice Department.

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A Virginia court ordered Akbar to pay a fine of $500,000 for advertising and selling the app, a landmark criminal conviction. Once the spyware app ends up installed on a device, the purchaser could sync up the mobile device’s private information to any computer they work from.

“Spyware is an electronic eavesdropping tool that secretly and illegally invades individual privacy,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell. “Make no mistake: Selling spyware is a federal crime, and the Criminal Division will make a federal case out if it. Today’s guilty plea by a creator of the StealthGenie spyware is another demonstration of our commitment to prosecuting those who would invade personal privacy.”

“The defendant advertised and sold a spyware app that could be secretly installed on smart phones without the knowledge of the phones owner,” said U.S. Attorney Boente. “This spyware app allowed individuals to intercept phone calls, electronic mail, text messages, voicemails and photographs of others. The product allowed for the wholesale invasion of privacy by other individuals, and this office in coordination with our law enforcement partners will prosecute not just users of apps like this, but the makers and marketers of such tools as well.”

“Mr. Akbar is the first-ever person to admit criminal activity in advertising and selling spyware that invades an unwitting victim’s confidential communications,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge McCabe. “This illegal spyware provides individuals with an option to track a person’s every move without their knowledge. As technology evolves, the FBI will continue to evolve to protect consumers from those who sell illegal spyware.”

StealthGenie could end up installed on different brands of mobile phones, including Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, and Blackberry Limited’s Blackberry. Once installed, it could intercept all conversations and text messages sent using the phone. The app was undetectable by most users and the developers advertised it as being untraceable.

Police arrested Akbar Sept. 27 in Los Angeles and he pleaded guilty last week to sale of an interception device and advertisement of a known interception device. After accepting the guilty plea, the court immediately sentenced Akbar to time served and ordered him to pay a $500,000 fine. He also had to forfeit the source code for StealthGenie to the government.

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