Spyware in you cell phone -- what next?

Spyware in you cell phone -- what next?

Summary: I just read CNET reporter Joris Evers' article about new spy software that hides on cell phones. I think it's outrageous, but I guess it shouldn't be too surprising since there's spyware for your automobile.

TOPICS: Security

I just read CNET reporter Joris Evers' article about new spy software that hides on cell phones. I think it's outrageous, but I guess it shouldn't be too surprising since there's already spyware for your automobile. This spyware for cell phones is called FlexiSpy. FlexiSpy went on the market March 1 and is advertised as a tool to track kids and errant spouses. This software captures call logs, text messages, mobile Internet connections, and new features are being developed.  The captured data is sent to vendor Vervata's servers and can be accessed on a website.

Oh, this soo ripe for abuse!  FlexiSpy sounds like the equivalent of a key logger on a computer. Anti-domestic violence groups are outraged, and rightfully so. Security company F-Secure has labeled the application as a Spy Trojan, Flexispy.A and have added detection for it to their mobile anti-virus. F-Secure says FlexiSpy is hidden from the Symbian process menu and is invisible to the phone user. The hidden interface can be accessed with a code known only by the person who installed FlexiSpy. Just like a key logger. 

The F-Secure blog and threat description have screenshots of the user interface. FlexiSpy records server time, direction, duration, phone number and contact name. It also records contents of SMS messages. Right now FlexiSpy is available only for cell phone using the Symbian operating system, but plans are in place to release versions for BlackBerrys and phones running Windows Mobile Pocket PC. A Pro version is in the works, too. The Pro version will allow the user to actually listen to conversations on the phone, log email messages and multimedia messages.

The company selling Flexi-Spy, Vervata, based in Bangkok, Thailand defends the application since it has to be knowingly installed by a human, does not self replicate or pretend to be something it's not, and can be uninstalled.  That's nice. This software has a huge potential for abuse because it can be used to monitor someone without their knowledge and consent.

One has to ask, is it ever morally and ethically acceptable to monitor someone's communications without their knowledge and consent, whether with a key logger on their computer or with a spy program on their cell phone?

There are some interesting points in the Talkbacks on Evers' article. Here the poster points out another concern: the potential for abuse of the information stored on the website. She mentions the security of the site -- what if hackers got the information?  I'd want to see the site's privacy policy and know what security measures they have in place.

I'd like to know what readers think about the question -- is it ever acceptable to electronically monitor someone without their knowledge and consent? A Florida court said NO.  The court ruled a wife broke the state law against wiretapping by installing surveillance software Spector on her husband's computer and recording his online activities. The wiretapping law says who anyone "intentionally intercepts" any "electronic communication" commits a criminal act. It seems to me that the use of FlexiSpy breaks that law, too.

Topic: Security

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Not acceptable, except...

    I don't believe it is acceptable to electronically or otherwise monitor someone without their knowledge - except maybe if used by law enforcement agencies with a court issued warrant, and then only if life is in danger.

    I note that there is a version of Spybot Search and Destroy for Symbian UIQ based cellphones, available for download via their downloads page. The home page is: http://www.safer-networking.org. It is described there as "a working demonstration preview".

    Kind regards,

  • Cellphone spyware removal opportunity?

    Interesting article! It sounds like companies are now realizing the need for spyware detection for cell phones. I wonder how popular a service would be that offered to scan a cell phone and check it for spyware?

    <a href="http://www.eaprotection.com" target="_blank">EAProtection.com</a>
  • RE: Spyware in you cell phone -- what next?

    I find this article interesting as well. It seems that people seem to neglect the fact that cell phones are simply computers that have similar vulnerabilities that laptops and desktops do. Good to see that people are spreading the word. I am concerned about my iPhone and need to know how to protect it.

    Thank you,

    • RE: Spyware in you cell phone -- what next?

      @jdjonesosu I think some people are becoming confused with the term spyware and apps that can actually spy on a cell phone. Not surprising with these kinds of articles. The sort of spying software that you can get, for instance, here http://phonetapping.org is not spyware, as such like the malicious little programs that you would remove with something like Spybot. There are all sorts of these softwares out there now and they're actually getting out of hand. I suppose that as long as they are legal to buy, folks will turn a blind eye on the fact that, in most cases, they are illegal to actually use.
  • RE: Spyware in you cell phone -- what next?

    How can i tell if this is true. I have been seeing some weird
    things on my phone like deleted contacts when I never
    deleted them. Is there a way to get the spyware off my

    • response to lovemeslender

      The best thing to do is have your provider factory reset the phone. This will remove all data and programs from your phone. You will loose all of your data and your contacts, but you will be positive that no malicious software is hiding on your phone.
  • RE: Spyware in you cell phone -- what next?

    Dear Aden,

    You had some interesting posts on new cell phone spyware software. Ok you got my attention, and I am concerned. Cell phone spyware is very scary is there anything I can do detect whether or not spyware has been installed on my cell phone?


    Andy, Las Vegas NV

    Dear Andy,

    There are measures that you can take to help yourself in cell phone spyware detection?..
  • RE: Spyware in you cell phone -- what next?

    Is it lawful for your spouse to cheat without your consent and bring
    u a nice case of HIV or some herpes home. Maybe the spouse is
    an excellent liar and gets away with it all the time, so u think that
    leaving and breaking up your childrens home would be wrong of u.
    How about aleady catching them cheat and they swear that they
    can change but your trust is too broken to believe it even though u
    want to. Spying on someone for justified reasons never killed
    anyone. AIDS has. Maybe spying could help repair broken trust by
    showing u there is nothing to find out.
    • RE: Spyware in you cell phone -- what next?


      Good point, you know how do i know you arent a terrorist or something, we should set up spy ware in your phone just to be sure. Cant be to safe now, can we? Maybe your the one my spouse is cheating with, another reason to spy on you, right? If you cant see the dangers of allowing this type of "innocent" survellience in the hands of john q public you really are an ostrich.
  • RE: Spyware in you cell phone -- what next?

    Yes,now it is used by many people.Many of them said,they are not working.I bought a one last summer.You can find out the messages,incoming calls details with the software but there are many bugs.

  • RE: Spyware in you cell phone -- what next?

    Do you want to track someone, use the full functionality and save more money ????, So, you can go to http://www.omegaspy.com with us. You can use a lot of different functions developed by experienced programmers. But its price is very cheap only from 4.99$/ 10 days package. i hope it help you ^^
  • RE: Spyware in you cell phone -- what next?

    http://www.antispyingsoftware.com/ is the solution. It kills every spyware for mobile found on this planet.