The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has arrested a 31-year-old in the US for allegedly selling StealthGenie spyware online.
The law enforcement agency said Monday that Hammad Akbar was indicted in the Eastern District of Virginia for operating InvoCode, which sells the spyware online.
The StealthGenie app is able to monitor calls, texts, videos and other communications on mobile phones without detection or the user's consent. According to the law enforcement agency, StealthGenie is able to:
- Record outgoing and incoming calls;
- Intercept calls to monitor them in real-time;
- Activate the phone and monitor all surrounding conversations within a 15-foot radius;
- Monitor email, SMS messages, voicemail and address book additions, as well as a smartphone's calendar, photographs, and videos.
After spending a few minutes physically installing the spyware on the device, communications could be synchronized with a customer account so intercepted communications could be reviewed online separately.
According to the FBI, Akbar allegedly conspired to advertise and sell the spyware application online, and the Akbar's arrest marks the first-ever criminal case concerning the advertisement and sale of a mobile device spyware app. The agency says most of advertising for StealthGenie focused on catching out cheating spouses or partners.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said:
"Selling spyware is not just reprehensible, it's a crime. 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. The Criminal Division is committed to cracking down on those who seek to profit from technology designed and used to commit brazen invasions of individual privacy."
The indictment says that Akbar, of Lahore, Pakistan, is CEO of InvoCode, and the 31-year-old allegedly created the spyware, which was "undetectable by most users and was advertised as being untraceable." Charges listed against Akbar include "conspiracy, sale of a surreptitious interception device, advertisement of a known interception device and advertising a device as a surreptitious interception device."
The spyware was hosted at a data center in Ashburn, Virginia. On 26 September, a federal judge in the Eastern District of Virginia issued a temporary restraining order to temporarily disable the website hosting StealthGenie.
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