Hammad Akbar, a Pakistani national and the chief executive of InvoCode Pvt Limited has been indicted in the U.S. state of Virginia for conspiring to advertise and sell StealthGenie, an app that can monitor communications on smartphone without detection.
The characterization of the app as spyware is apt. Without the user’s knowledge, it could record all ingoing and outgoing voice calls, intercept calls on the fly, could allow the purchaser of the app to call and monitor all conversations within 15 feet of the device and monitor all emails, SMS, voice mails, calendar entries, audio and video files.
The purchaser of the app only needed to access a phone for a few minutes for StealthGenie to be installed. Once it was, it was undetectable for a vast majority of users. The app itself worked across Android, iOS and Blackberry devices.
Arrested in Los Angeles, Akbar’s indictment charges include conspiracy, sale of a surreptitious interception device, advertisement of a known interception device and advertising a device as a surreptitious interception device.
An indictment means that the burden of proof is on the prosecutors as they have to prove guilt in a court of law. The current allegations state that the app was marketed towards spouses and people who felt their significant others were cheating. The legitimacy of various testimonials on the app website is also in question.
U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente said, “StealthGenie has little use beyond invading a victim’s privacy. Advertising and selling spyware technology is a criminal offense, and such conduct will be aggressively pursued by this office and our law enforcement partners.”
The case is the first of its kind and could have implications for many apps that provide the same functionality as StealthGenie. The app was hosted at a data center in Virginia, U.S and that could also become an important factor in the future for apps that could be used maliciously. Right now the company website has been shut down through a court order.