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Mobile Phones Vulnerable To 'spy' Software
09-07-2006, 03:53 PM
Post: #1
Mobile Phones Vulnerable To 'spy' Software
(China Daily Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Would you spy on your spouse? A British company is urging consumers to buy "secret" mobile phone software so they can read their partner's text messages but denies encouraging infringement of privacy laws.

FlexiSpy is billed as the "world's most powerful spy software for mobile phones," which enables a buyer to "secretly record every SMS (text) message, view their call history, and more!" Its website even has a "testimony" from a customer. "Thanks to FlexiSpy, I finally figured out my wife was cheating on me with my brother," he claims. "My life is so much better." The potential for mobile phone monitoring was highlighted last week by Symantec, the information security company. It warned mobile phones are potentially vulnerable to spyware, software that covertly gathers a user's information without their knowledge. These could enable snoopers to remotely activate a mobile phone's microphone, take pictures with its camera or record conversations without the user's knowledge.

Such technology might prove tempting to bosses who want to keep track of their employees or journalists hunting stories about celebrities, though the Data Protection Act states a person must not "knowingly or recklessly" and without consent obtain or disclose personal data.

But Vervata, the company behind FlexiSpy, denied it was doing anything illegal. The software has to be installed manually on the "spied upon" handset, making it difficult to do without the owner's knowledge.

Industry experts warned that the increasing complexity of phones has its downsides. Richard Starnes said: "As mobile phones progress, they are becoming the de facto computers of 10 years ago. With these capabilities come vulnerabilities: security is inversely proportionate to functionality. It will definitely be an increasing threat in the coming years." Meanwhile, another report says selling or giving away your old phone once you upgrade to a fancier model can be like handing over your diaries. All sorts of sensitive information pile up inside mobile phones, and deleting it may be more difficult than you think.

A popular practice among sellers, resetting the phone, often means sensitive information appears to have been erased. But it can be resurrected using specialized yet inexpensive software found on the Internet.

One US company, Trust Digital, bought 10 different phones on eBay this summer to test phone-security tools it sells for businesses. The phones all were fairly sophisticated models capable of working with corporate e-mail systems, priced between US$192 and US$400 each.

The company resurrected information on nearly every used phone, including lovers' exchanges, one company's plans to win a multimillion-dollar federal contract, and bank accounts and passwords.

The recovered information was equal to 27,000 pages a stack of printouts 2.5 metres high.

Phone manufacturers usually provide instructions for safely deleting a customer's information, but it's not always convenient or easy to find.

Copyright 2006 China Daily. Source: Financial Times Information Limited - Asia Intelligence Wire.

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