March 29, 2006 5:45 PM PST

Spy program snoops on cell phones

New software that hides on cell phones and captures call logs and text messages is being sold as a way to monitor kids and spouses. But one security company calls it a Trojan horse.

The FlexiSpy application captures call logs, text messages and mobile Internet activity, among other things. The software, released at the beginning of March, sells for $49.95 and is advertised by Bangkok, Thailand-based Vervata as a tool to monitor kids and unfaithful spouses. The data captured is sent to Vervata's servers and is accessible to customers via a special Web site.

Similar surveillance software for PCs already exists and has raised the ire of groups fighting domestic violence, who fear it may be used by abusive spouses.

FlexiSpy has attracted a different kind of criticism from security company F-Secure, which has labeled the software a Trojan, or a malicious program that disguises itself as something innocuous.

"This application installs itself without any kind of indication as to what it is," Jarno Niemela wrote on the Finnish antivirus maker's corporate blog Wednesday. "And when it is installed on the phone, it completely hides itself from the user."

FlexiSpy could be used by miscreants as part of malicious software that targets phones, Niemela wrote. Alternatively, an attacker could try sending the program to phones via a Bluetooth connection and trust that there are enough curious people to install it. F-Secure has updated its security software for mobile phones to detect the program.

Vervata in an e-mailed statement late Wednesday insisted that FlexiSpy is not malicious. ""FlexiSpy is not a Trojan horse, nor a virus, and does not require the purchase of F-Secure antivirus products to remove it," the company said. An uninstall option is provided, Vervata added.

"FlexiSpy is activity monitoring software that needs to be consciously installed by a human who knows exactly what the software does," Vervata said, to distinguish its product from a Trojan horse. "It does not self replicate, it does not pretend to be something it is not, and it always requires conscious human action for installation."

Sales of FlexiSpy have "exceeded all expectations," Vervata said, without disclosing any specific numbers.

FlexiSpy is available for cell phones that run the Symbian operating system, such as Nokia Series 60 handsets. Vervata plans to release by the end of April a version for Research In Motion's BlackBerry, as well as for devices that run Microsoft's Windows Mobile Pocket PC operating system, according to the company's Web site.

Vervata is still working on "FlexiSpy Pro," which will log e-mail and multimedia messages, in addition to the other data, according to the company's Web site. That version will also include a "monitoring" feature that lets the user call the target cell phone from a preset number and listen in on what's going on in the background, in much the same way a baby monitor works.

See more CNET content tagged:
security company, F-Secure Corp., cell phone, trojan horse, security

69 comments

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Cell Phone Spying
They can insist all day and week but the truth is the use of the product in a computer or thelephone is illegal. In my home state of Arizona it's called Felony! Any electronic device that is used to evesdrop on a conversation trap key strokes or acts as a pin register may not be used by a third party (regardless of relationship) without the consent of at least one party to the communication or a court order can get serious jail time. And, in this day of ID theft and other spying isues the case would have to be moved to Antartica with a jury of Penguins before anyone would get a fair tiral on this planet.
Posted by GEBERWEIN (75 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I hate to tell you this, but in our state of Arizona, "without the consent of at least one party to the communication" means that if YOU are recording a conversation YOU are having with me, as long as YOU know you are recording it, it is totally legal.
Posted by sygourney (2 comments )
Link Flag
http://www.spymobile.biz you should visit this website
Posted by nileshdopho (18 comments )
Link Flag
FlexiSPY is not a Trojan
We at Vervata read the reporting by Jarco on F- Secure's website and have the following response.

"FlexiSPY is not a Trojan, nor a Virus and DOES NOT REQUIRE the purchase of F-Secure Mobile Antivirus products to remove it. An uninstall option is provided for the User, so the application can be removed at any time. Configuration settings are also available to allow frequency of connections, thereby allowing the user to minimize network connections to once daily if required.

Lets look at the facts starting with the definition of Trojan.

A Trojan is software that masquerades as something it is not. It will hide its actual private functional payload under the guise of its public face. A Trojan is uninstalled by deceiving a human that the program will do something totally different to its actual purpose. A Trojan does not normally automatically install itself without conscious human intervention.

A Virus is a software program that spreads itself automatically without any involvement from a human. It is self-replicating, malicious code that attaches itself to an application program or other executable system compoent and leaves no obvious signs of its presence.

FlexiSPY is activity monitoring software that needs to be consciously installed by a Human, who knows EXACTLY what the software does. It does NOT self replicate, it does NOT pretend to be something it is not, and it ALWAYS requires conscious human action for instalation.

Like any other monitoring software there may be a possibility for misuse, but there is nothing inherent in FlexiSPY that makes it illegal or
malicious, and Vervata would like to point out that F-Secure comments categorizing FlexiSPY as a Trojan are completely incorrect."

Sincerely,


Vervata
Posted by FlexiSPY (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
...but it definitely sounds like spyware
You say it has to be installed by a human, but that
could be anyone who has access to the phone.

In fact, I don't really see why anyone would want to
install this on a phone that they own and use.
Posted by Jackson Cracker (272 comments )
Link Flag
oh?
via wikipedia:
"a Trojan horse is a malicious program that is disguised as legitimate software."
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trojan_horse_%28computing%29" target="_newWindow">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trojan_horse_%28computing%29</a>

from TFA:
"This application installs itself without any kind of indication as to what it is"
"The FlexiSpy application captures call logs, text messages and mobile Internet activity, among other things...is advertised by Bangkok, Thailand-based Vervata as a tool to monitor kids and unfaithful spouses."

Yeah, and Back Orifice was marketed as a "remote administration tool"

If it looks like a duck...
Posted by rbochan (14 comments )
Link Flag
Sort of agree...
I can agree that this is not a virus or a trojan. However, it is SPYWARE and could easily be turned into a virus or a trojan. The key: DO NOT HIDE YOUR SOFTWARE WHILE RUNNING. Anything like that is not good and will likely get you in trouble. I should be able to see it, kill it, and uninstall it.

For parents that want to use it, then feel free to allow the program to notify the installer of its removal (with notification to the phone user of course).
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
Link Flag
What dictionary do you quote for Trojan definition?
I agree your comment that FlexiSPY is not a Virus.
But I can't agree your comment that it is not a Trojan.
I think this disagreement is caused by difference between Trojan definition that you quoted and I referred.
(I read its definition at wiki.)

So, would you show reference that you quoted?

Sincerely,
Shinichi
Posted by Inetgate (2 comments )
Link Flag
What dictionary do you quote for Trojan definition?
Dear Vervata:

I agree your comment that FlexiSPY is not a Virus.
But I can't agree your comment that it is not a Trojan.
I think this disagreement is caused by difference between Trojan definition that you quoted and I referred.
(I read its definition at wiki.)

So, would you show reference that you quoted?

Sincerely,
Shinichi
Posted by Inetgate (2 comments )
Link Flag
Yes, you supply a removal option for the USER... meaning the person who paid you for your spy software. Exactly what do you offer the victims of your product?
Posted by sygourney (2 comments )
Link Flag
I agree that this software is very useful to, some but very hurtful to other your company has no idea how many life its cause to be derailed in so instants its has many some people life a living hell.
jasoninspired@aol.com
Posted by jasoninspired (1 comment )
Link Flag
http://www.spymobile.biz you should visit this website
Posted by nileshdopho (18 comments )
Link Flag
WE SUCK!
The company is not really the problem. True, they are feeding the beast, but that beast is us. No wonder no one cares about the government spying on us...we're doing it ourselves. I'll bet that after this article gets published on say, digg.com, the company gets record downloads of their spying product.

In this information and immediate gratification age, we'll use everything we can because we can. We as a society have no class - just look our media.

I give maybe one week before someone has some poor fools intimate phone calls posted on the web.
Posted by Jeremiah256 (28 comments )
Reply Link Flag
http://www.spymobile.biz you should visit this website
Posted by nileshdopho (18 comments )
Link Flag
A Keylogger for Cell Phones, what will they think of next?
This is a beautiful program. A keylogger for cell phones. Next this program will probably record everything each end of the line says. What about people who pay their bills over the phone? Many phone services ask for your name, adress, and last 4 digits of your social security number to confirm your identity when paying your bill over the phone. Next this program will be logging all that.

Cell phone vendors will be installing this program on new phones before selling them to the public. Then they will be able to obtain personal information about the owner. Could this eventually lead to credit card fraud and identity theft? Next this program will send all that information straight to their email. All the vendor will have to do is log into his email inbox and download the MP3 of your last phone conversation. Is this product really safe?
Posted by rallynochaos (34 comments )
Reply Link Flag
cell phone listening
This is the united ststes,people should have privacy.All of my privacy has been taken because of these "spy" devices.My husband is paranoid,and will use it on others besides me.
Posted by stalkedculberg (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Put it on their phone first. that way you will get a heads up...
Posted by GlassBlowerCanada (1 comment )
Link Flag
http://www.spymobile.biz you should visit this website
Posted by nileshdopho (18 comments )
Link Flag
www.Phone-Spy.net
I went on flexispy's website but it is very expensive. So instead I bought another software, which allows to listen to calls and also get sms forwarded, and it is much cheaper. <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.Phone-Spy.net" target="_newWindow">http://www.Phone-Spy.net</a>
Posted by rk287 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
There are cracks out there..imagine having kids access those kinds of malware. A friend of my friend has probably the worst case ever. She's from the Philippines. With their cybercrime laws still pending in their you could just imagine what she's facing now.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://unwitting.multiply.com" target="_newWindow">http://unwitting.multiply.com</a> This is shocking.
Posted by kevmarqramos (3 comments )
Link Flag
how did it work out? what do you have to do to the phone you want to capture the info from?
Posted by idontwanttoknow (1 comment )
Link Flag
can the software you got let you view cell phone internet use and key stroks?
Posted by ny17 (2 comments )
Link Flag
How did you install in your phone? what kind of phone do you have? is it complicated?
Posted by mila2009 (1 comment )
Link Flag
Hello my name is Sonia my email addrss is sjgiselle@aol.com
I was wondering if I could get in toch with you & ask you a couple of questions regarding this subject.
I have heard so many different comments about this & before i myself purchase any of them I have a few questions I dont really understand yet.And because you mentioned that you personaly did this you would know more than someone who's never done this & only talking out of their opinion. I hopeto hear from yo soon.
Just please write on subject line your name & /or phonespy so i know its you.
thanks
sony
Posted by sjgiselle (1 comment )
Link Flag
Hi, how's it going? i checked the site www.phone.spy.net, but my question really does it really work, because i have been screwd in a lot of scams lately. If it does is it a software that you would have to install in the target phone...
Posted by nizzie84 (2 comments )
Link Flag
By the way you can email me me at sobner.hermilus@yahoo.com
Posted by nizzie84 (2 comments )
Link Flag
http://www.spymobile.biz you should visit this website
Posted by nileshdopho (18 comments )
Link Flag
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://unwitting.multiply.com" target="_newWindow">http://unwitting.multiply.com</a>

Check out the link above. WORST CASE OF CYBERSTALKING I HAVE ENOUNTERED ever.

22 year old female from the Philippines. Poor girl.
Posted by kevmarqramos (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
http://www.spymobile.biz you should visit this website
Posted by nileshdopho (18 comments )
Link Flag
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://unwitting.multiply.com" target="_newWindow">http://unwitting.multiply.com</a>

Check out the link above. WORST CASE OF CYBERSTALKING I HAVE ENOUNTERED ever.

22 year old female from the Philippines. Poor girl.
Posted by kevmarqramos (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
http://www.spymobile.biz you should visit this website
Posted by nileshdopho (18 comments )
Link Flag
If used as a way to control a child's use and protect their safety I'm all for it. Let's not get carried away though. Even though software or hardware is created to be used a certain 'useful' way there's ALWAYS a way someone will mess with it , someone who will abuse the privilege...hence the need for parental control on text messages and picture messages. Ya can't fix stupid I guess.
Posted by rescuefire (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
http://www.spymobile.biz you should visit this website
Posted by nileshdopho (18 comments )
Link Flag
This is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. I have been able to obtain information that was not able to be found any other way. Thanks! Brigitte Jeter jeterslovejesus@aol.com
Posted by BrigitteJeter (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Can you tell me how it works,does it have to be insatlled on the target phone
Posted by Silver5337 (1 comment )
Link Flag
you said this is amazing, how often did you have to go on the cell phone you wanted information from. Was it just the one time to install the program? Or can it be remotely installed?
Posted by ny17 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
http://www.spymobile.biz you should visit this website
Posted by nileshdopho (18 comments )
Link Flag
Not only is it a Trojan these companies are fully aware that the spy ware is being used to illegally spy on people without the person consent. Celebrities, sport professionals, CEO's, and even law enforcement have fallen victim to these hacker. It is easier then most people may believe to hack someone phone, and it is much more wide spread then most expert, or so call experts are saying. I saw a demonstration by the IDF Task Force in Philadelphia that shocked even some of law enforcement IT people. The demonstration was done using Bluetooth program, one was E-Mail that was spoofed as if it was sent by someone the target knew, the third hack was a simple $19.00 download to laptop then USB right into the phone.
These people at the IDF are forensic IT guys who have been performing cell phone spy ware for sometime. They explain how at one time only spies, and CEO?s were doing the spying or being target, but now even kids are doing to their teachers, and for pranks. I attended the demonstration after seeing them on NBC news. I am not sure if they are law enforcement, but they are the good guys that remove bugs instead of planting thing which is all you find on the internet.
Their web site is WWW.IDFTASKFORCE.COM
They also have a Toll free number you can call them on.
Posted by vidgam (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
http://www.spymobile.biz you should visit this website
Posted by nileshdopho (18 comments )
Link Flag
I currently use reverse cell phone lookup but I'm thinking of getting one of those cellular spy softwares
http://www.usfreeads.com/catalogs/563692/item2234704.html
Posted by smke9 (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
http://www.spymobile.biz you should visit this website
Posted by nileshdopho (18 comments )
Link Flag
There are cheaper ways by restricting calls etc through your carrier e.g. AT&T charges $5 for parent control.
Listening to others conversation is spying even though they are your children. The message you are sending is we do not trust you.

I suggest either giving them a cell phone which can only call few numbers or do not give them a cell phone but better yet work out a trust factor.

With spouses if they are cheating one has to have a direct conversation. You can then decide whether this relationship is worth staying in.

Salman
Posted by aziz700 (25 comments )
Reply Link Flag
http://www.spymobile.biz you should visit this website
Posted by nileshdopho (18 comments )
Link Flag
I found a really good program from googrilla.com It is only $8.99 vs the 40 - 50 some try to charge.

It works great but I didnt realize how much you dont want to snoop. Your feelings may be hurt from what you find, and its a bad idea.
Posted by brianpatrr1 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I didn't find anything like that on the googrilla website.
Posted by Teckson (1 comment )
Link Flag
http://www.spymobile.biz you should visit this website
Posted by nileshdopho (18 comments )
Link Flag
Great post. Here's a quick video that covers cell phone spyware detection and 3 ways that you can tell if your cell phone, Blackberry or iPhone has spyware installed on it.

http://www.askaden.com/2010/04/cell-phone-spyware-detection.html
Posted by adenford (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Where does the software gets installed, on the cell phone unit or the sim card? What if the user changes the cell phone unit but keeps the same sim card? Thanks!
Posted by meliweli (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
its on the handset,if they change handset you have to install to that one
Posted by miles_stewart (2 comments )
Link Flag
all this talk about "spying on people is wrong" how many of you have used a nanny cam ? did you tell the nanny or cleaner you were watching them.

what about all the spy cam shows you watch on tv is this so different.

covert recording in one form or another has gone on for a long time and will continue to do so,
Posted by miles_stewart (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
http://www.spymobile.biz you should visit this website
Posted by nileshdopho (18 comments )
Link Flag
good ,3Q
Posted by onexiaowu (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Spy Cell Phones Software is nothing new. SpyCellPhonesSoftware.com has had experience in this field for 2 years now. Work on 99% of all phones
Posted by SpyCellPhonesSoftware (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
i also believe that the cell phone spy softwares are getting very common because their prices are getting very low and affordable for everyone.. like i also purchased the spy software from www.spyphonetap.com and i installed it on my girlfriend phone.. it helped me to get every detail easily from her cell phone.. i tracked her locations easily... !
Posted by jjmaria (1 comment )
Link Flag
http://www.spymobile.biz you should visit this website
Posted by nileshdopho (18 comments )
Link Flag
This is not necessarily illegal, and may be different in different countries and states. For example, if I'm employer, and this is company phone, I may install this without informing the employee who is using it, and monitor him - same as monitoring his phone conversations and emails. Equally, a parent can do it on the phone given to his kid. Equally, the husband can do it on the phone given to his wife (I'm sure there are jurisdictions where he can't, but probably there are where he can). And so on. All this is subject to local laws, and the responsibility to use this tool (or any other tool, for that matter) in accordance with the local laws lies on the employer/parent/husband, rather than on tool developer. The software may be hidden from the user of the phone, but still it has to be installed consciously by someone who has access to the phone, so in this sense it's not a Trojan any more than phone-recording or email-filtering software in a company, or looking at the traffic log in the home router interface.
Posted by trot33 (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
http://www.spymobile.biz you should visit this website
Posted by nileshdopho (18 comments )
Link Flag
Thank God companies have filled this need to monitor cell phones. Cell phones are the prime instruments used in marital infidelity these days. Now we can verify if our spouses are in the middle of the affair, and we can verify that they are no contact and rebuild trust.
Posted by lordmayhem01 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
http://www.spymobile.biz
Posted by nileshdopho (18 comments )
Link Flag
No need now to spend many dollars to spy a cell phone.
download the freeware COPY9 at www.spytic.com
(Compatible iPhone, iPad, Android, Symbian, Windows mobile)
Posted by iphone13007 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
http://www.spymobile.biz you should visit this website
Posted by nileshdopho (18 comments )
Link Flag
Don't wast your time with Gravity Mobile Spy. Their product mostly to completely doesn't work. Their service is almost nonexistent and good luck trying to get your refund. I'm at three weeks and counting after sending back their useless CD.
Posted by Philofarns (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Need a programmer that can make a cell phone dial a designated number. Anybody with this expertise will be handsomly rewarded. You can get in touch with me at mikejohnson100@facebook.com.
Posted by mikejohnson100 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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