Posted on September 3, 2021 at 4:57 PM
Modern technologies have done a lot to make the world a more convenient and fun place, but this comes at a major cost of losing one’s privacy. Pretty much every website, app, service, and more that people use is logging their data for their own purposes, but also to sell it to advertisers, highest bidders, governments, and more.
Not to mention the instances where such data gets stolen and misused by bad actors, which can be extremely harmful. One example is the misuse of private data by stalkers, which is actually the US data watchdog’s greatest concern when it comes to SpyFone.
In a recent report, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) stated that SpyFone and its CEO, Scott Zuckerman, were ordered to delete all data that has been collected through this spyware app. Furthermore, both are now banned from the surveillance business due to illegally harvesting information. Lastly, the app and its CEO have to notify the victims of what has transpired.
The FTC claims that the stalkerware app company harvested and shared private data in secret, without the victims being aware of it. The data is collected included people’s physical movements, online activities, phone use, and more, all obtained through a hidden device hack. Not only that, but it also sold access to this information, as well as new data collected in real-time, allowing stalkers, domestic abusers, and other bad actors to track their targets effortlessly.
What is stalkerware?
Stalkerware, also known as spyware, is typically installed after someone gains access to a mobile phone that belongs to some other individual. It then allows people to keep track of users activity, contacts, conversations, emails, social media, and more.
Typically, spyware firms market them as apps meant for monitoring employees or children, although it is all too easy to start misusing them for spying on family members, partners, friends, and others, all without consent or knowledge of the victim.
Not the first time SpyFone was involved with security issues
The FTC further claims that the app, based in Puerto Rico, is doing business as Support King, LLC, and as part of its business, it has sold stalkerware that allowed its customers to monitor people. More than that, it even provided these people with instructions on how to hide the app on devices, so that users would remain unaware that they are being monitored.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, the company also failed to meet basic security requirements when it comes to protecting information. This has been going on for quite a while, and in 2018, an unsecured server allegedly leaked entire terabytes worth of Spyfone-collected data. Since its release, the data has been included in the Have I Been Pwned search engine, but a lot of people may still be unaware of it, or the danger they are in.
The company itself promised that it will work with third-party data security firms, as well as law enforcement authorities in order to investigate the 2018 incident. However, from what the FTC managed to find out, it would appear that it never did anything of the sort. So, the FTC issued the first ban on a spyware app ever, banning Support King, the app, as well as Zuckerman from offering, promoting, selling or advertising surveillance apps, services, and businesses.
But, now that the ban has been issued, the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection’s Acting Director, Samuel Levine, announced that the watchdog will become more aggressive when it comes to seeking surveillance bans in the future. As for SpyFone, it did not admit fault, nor did it deny the allegations as of yet.