Jealous Lovers Now Get NSA Powers!

from the brave-new-world dept

I've been thinking, with all the revelations coming out about the NSA spying on all of us, maybe we've been going about reacting the wrong way. I mean, we all seem to fall somewhere on the spectrum of being upset about this, from the more mildly uncomfortable but resigning folks that are okay with the spying to those more militant about privacy. What if we're all just pissed that we aren't the ones getting to do all this sweet, sweet surveillance on everyone we know.

Well, that's all changed, thanks to the makers of the mSpy software, which allows you to gift smart phones preinstalled with their software to those you care about most and then play NSA on them to your heart's content.

Starting today, the company is also selling phones preloaded with the software, making it simple for users without any tech savvy to start surveillance right out of the box. The phone package is available with the HTC One, Nexus 5, Samsung Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5s, at varying cost; for example, the Samsung Galaxy S4 costs $300; the subscription for the preloaded software costs another $199 for a year.

[From the moment the software is installed], the phone records everything that happens on the device and sends the details to a remote website. Every call is recorded, every keystroke logged, every email seen, every SMS chat or photograph monitored.
Count me as someone who is suddenly even more glad than ever that I'm out of the dating world. On the other hand, I suppose it'll be weird for any of us married folks to get smart phones as gifts from now on as well. Oh well, down the surveillance hatch, I say! The NSA spies on us, we spy on each other, and the important thing to remember is that the makers of this software, which advertises to buyers that their targets "won't find out", are the most innocent of innocents here.
The phone's proclaimed target markets are employers and parents who have the legal authority to watch what their children do on their smart phones. Company founder Andrei Shimanovich knows others may use his products in illegal ways, but says it is not his responsibility.

"It is the same question with the gun producer," says Shimanovich, a Belarus native who recently moved to New York. "If you go out and buy a gun and go shoot someone, no one will go after the gun producer. People who shoot someone will be responsible for this. Same thing for mSpy. We just provide the services which can solve certain tasks regarding parents and teenagers."
And creepy bastards, estranged lovers, stalkers, or anyone else who might be able to surreptitiously sneak this software onto the phones of whomever they're targeting. While it's completely true that we ought not blame the tool-maker for the way the tool is used, that doesn't discount the level of creepy in this software. Gone, apparently, are the days when parents raised their children to be responsible and then loosed them on the world to make a few mistakes and grow up better because of it. Gone are the days when employers made it a point to hire staff that they trusted. The NSA has paved the way for a whole new level of Orwellian acceptance, where the only difference between government surveillance and that we do ourselves is that our personal spying might actually be effective, since it will be more targeted.

Prepare yourselves, people, for when the news media first gets hold of some stalker who commits a violent act and is found to have employed this software, because the backlash against it is going to be insane.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 11:05pm

    ... and this latest gross violation of privacy and security brought to you courtesy of the NSA. 'The NSA: You've got your private data, and soon, so will we.'

    Not to say the NSA is the one running this(though if they don't have a tap on this company, or aren't scrambling to set up one I would be insanely surprised), but rather the fact that the NSA has so far faced a whole bunch of sternly worded letters, and some angry politicians, and nothing else due to their actions is almost certainly why this company feels safe in pushing a product so insanely open to abuse like this.

     

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      Pragmatic, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 6:56am

      Re:

      If government agencies can give us acid and crack, why not give us surveillance tools to spy on each other? After all, we'd hardly be in a position to complain about surveillance on ourselves, would we?

       

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 12:18am

    And they laugh at me for having a dumb phone.
    HA! Jokes on you guys.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 12:25am

    No, they are liable. They harvest the information 3rd hand with provided software, but rather than funnel the information straight to your computer, they host it on their servers for you to access anywhere. Meaning they spy on X person and make reports to Y person, meaning this likely is going to run afoul of Private investigator laws, wiretapping laws, etc. They will get sued. Repeatedly. Regardless of their terms of service, since the user of the device cannot possibly agree to them.

    IANAL, but this is just an awful idea. And likely to get found out when something else reports their software as malware, when they get a bill showing massive amounts of data use but all they ever do is call or text, etc etc etc.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 5:52am

      Re:

      this company is exactly liable. i think it was yesterday the story about mp3tunes being "willfully blind" in breaking the law.

      some 16 year old is going to load "Happy Birthday" ringtone to play to her grandmother , and then ... well... you know. lots and lots of fines.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 1:02am

    Excellent news for rapists and pedophiles and kidnappers

    This company is offering one-stop shopping: when (not if) their security is breached, all of the information that all those phones are uploading will be there for the taking.

    So remember: Andrei Shimanovich is the one responsible -- no matter what he says.

     

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    Ole Juul (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 1:21am

    developmental stage

    I would also have thought this was funny too, but that would have been around the same time that I thought whoopee cushions were the pinnacle of cleverness.

     

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    Lurker Keith, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 2:07am

    seriously

    Why not require ALL Government officials to use this, & make the data open to the public (no password, or give all the citizens of their country the password)? We'd get all the transparency we need to scare them into doing their jobs correctly!

    I would say exempt those working on National Security & Top Secret stuff, but, based on their actions & disregard for Laws & the Constitution, they're the ones who need the transparency the most!

     

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    Ninja (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 3:47am

    Can I get a gift wrap paper? I'm thinking of sending one to Ms Feinstein and Mr Rogers. I promise I will only record metadata since it's harmless! And I'm a professional so I'll never, ever abuse or lie about it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 3:55am

    "It is the same question with the gun producer," says Shimanovich, a Belarus native who recently moved to New York. "If you go out and buy a gun and go shoot someone, no one will go after the gun producer. People who shoot someone will be responsible for this. Same thing for mSpy. We just provide the services which can solve certain tasks regarding parents and teenagers."

    Yes but this is ON THE INTERNET so its completely different; secondary liability as courtified by the recent mp3 case applies.

     

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    Rex (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 4:05am

    For my kids

    I hate to say this but re-brand it for parents of teenagers and they've got a pretty good business model.

    I'd buy two. It'd be nice to know what it is my kids are constantly deleting from their phones.

     

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      That One Guy (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 11:54am

      Re: For my kids

      If you're willing to spy on your kids that much, get three, it's only fair they get to see what you do with your phone.

      In fact, if you really think something like this is so great, get just one, yours, and let your kids have access to the data it provides for a month or so, just so you know what it's like to have zero privacy regarding what you do with your phone. After all, for parents who think spying of this level is 'no big deal', they should have no problem proving it, by putting the microscope on themselves first.

      On a side note, for parents who think something this invasive is a good idea, have fun never being trusted by your kids again once they find out what you've done, a spying program like this is like putting a camera in their room, and just as bad.

       

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      John Fenderson (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 2:43pm

      Re: For my kids

      You're right, that is a lucrative market. But a sad one. I would say that parents who are resorting to outright spying on their kids have family issues that go way beyond what the kids are doing on their phones.

       

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    Eddie (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 5:00am

    Jilted Lovers

    This is wrong on so many levels!!!
    •Computers collecting and analyzing Internet traffic is just as much "surveillance" as a person peeping through a window
    •Note that human rights law doesn't allow mass, untargeted spying on ordinary, innocent people;
    End mass spying now! Section 215 of the Patriot Act should not be used to collect every single Americans' calling records. And Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act shouldn't be used to "incidentally" or otherwise collect Americans' emails, phone calls, or chats. Protect the privacy rights of our digital communications.
    Securing digital data, one computer at a time...
    www.americansrighttoprivacy.com

     

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    JustMe (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 5:15am

    A quick recap of possible problems

    Violating wiretapping and private investigator laws (some of which have teeth) by recording data when both parties have not given informed consent.

    Violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regarding user privacy, that's federal law.

    Violating payment card industry guidelines, so good luck having Visa or MasterCard accept your customer payments.

    What about those nekkid selfies that kids (shouldn't but do) take? Now Andrei Shimanovich is transferring and storing underage photos (across state lines).

    I haven't even gotten to the problems with transferring, storing and accessing information securely (which is hard, in the real world), along with authenticating and authorizing user access.

    Yeah, he needs a better lawyer.

     

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      Zonker, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 11:31am

      Re: A quick recap of possible problems

      Not to mention obtaining passwords to private accounts (via key-logging) the victim did not consent to and was not court ordered to provide just because they used a company/school device to log in.

      But we all know the only way this software would ever get shut down in the US is when the RIAA/MPAA notices that the spies are making unlicensed copies of any copyrighted works their victim may have accessed on their device.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 5:17am

    Since they are harvesting text and images from the phones, clearly much of the information is copyrighted. I imagine that all the target would need to do is register the copyrights for some of this data then pursue a case against the person who had the software installed. Also this would seem like a valid use for a DMCA takedown request.

     

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    DannyB (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 5:59am

    Surveillance on everyone we know?

    > What if we're all just pissed that we aren't the ones getting
    > to do all this sweet, sweet surveillance on everyone we know.


    Speak for yourself, Tim.

    I'm pissed because I'm not allowed to do the surveillance on attractive people I do not know.

    Stick to SIGINT and HUMINT all you want. LOVEINT is where it's at.

    Will mSpy be addressing this particular market need? Maybe congress needs to mandate all young people's phones come pre-installed with mSpy? Would Congress do something like this? Probably.

     

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 6:01am

    Tim, if I wanted to watch the jew-paint shift colors, I would just watch SNL over time.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 6:47am

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Seriously.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 7:15am

    NSA APP

    You know the NSA is just drooling all over themselves...they gotta be just a bit jealous....

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 7:27am

    Gone, apparently, are the days when parents raised their children to be responsible and then loosed them on the world to make a few mistakes and grow up better because of it.

    Gone, apparently, are the days when parents could trust that their children's mistakes could all go away with a stern talking to and a sincere promise to the principal/patrol officer who brought the kid home that the kid has learnt a lesson. Now we get trumped up criminal charges in the name of Zero Tolerance.

     

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    kenichi tanaka (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 7:38am

    mSpy might be setting itself up for major liability. While it might be technically legal for companies to record metadata, it's against the for private companies to knowingly spy on cellphone consumers without their knowledge and without a search warrant. It also opens the giver of the cellphone up to violations of someone's constitutional rights.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 8:33am

      Re:

      mSpy's argument is that they are producing a tool that is intended to be, and can be, used primarily for legal purposes. And they're right. It's really no different than all of the spy cameras, listening devices, etc., that you can buy from any random spy shop (or even from Amazon).

      The person who is in violation of the law is the one giving the cell to the unwitting victim.

       

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        PRMan, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 9:53am

        Re: Re:

        Then they had better not advertise it that way...

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 10:43am

          Re: Re: Re:

          They have a disclaimer on their home page (mspy.com):

          "My Spy (mSpy) is designed for monitoring your employees or underage children on a smartphone or mobile device that you own or have proper consent to monitor. You are required to notify users of the device that they are being monitored. "

          There is more under the EULA (under Legal) attempting to pass liability & responsibility for understanding the law in their jurisdiction to the purchaser. I suppose it will end up in court somewhere.

           

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            Zonker, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 12:03pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            The problem is that mSpy deliberately conceals the presence of the software to avoid the user being given notice that they are being monitored, unlike virtually any other app. It's deliberately not visible. That means it is designed to be a wiretapping tool, not a monitoring tool.

            According to USLegal.com: "A person can violate such [wiretapping] statutes by... unlawfully advertise[ing], sell[ing] or possess[ing] an "electronic, mechanical or other device(s)" which, by its design renders it primarily useful for the surreptitious interception of electronic, oral or wire communications".

             

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    Pixelation, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 7:58am

    I'll sue!

    They better not do it to me. I own the copyright to everything I say.

     

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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 9:00am

    We're helping you put the "Violating your" into "trust!"

    "If you go out and buy a gun and go shoot someone, no one will go after the gun producer."

    Really? I call bullcrap.

     

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    JustMe (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 9:10am

    Re: John Fenderson

    As I pointed out above, their analogy is flawed because their software isn't a hammer or a gun. In fact, their argument is not necessarily true in every case and patently false in others because they will be collecting, transmitting and hosting the data - which could be illegal in some situations or which could cause them to break laws in other situations (re: c.p. content).

    Also, even in the general case their argument falls apart because it neglects both manufacturer liability laws and federal/state/local laws regarding seller requirements (can't sell a gun to someone who declares they will use it in a crime, can't sell alcohol to someone who is visibly intoxicated, can't sell grow lights to someone who says they want it for wacky weed, etc.).

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 9:53am

      Re: Re: John Fenderson

      "As I pointed out above, their analogy is flawed because their software isn't a hammer or a gun"

      Huh? How is that relevant?

      "their argument is not necessarily true in every case and patently false in others because they will be collecting, transmitting and hosting the data"

      Simply collecting, transmitting, and hosting the data does not automatically make them liable. They'd have to know that a specific data set is illegal and do nothing about it to even begin to open the path to liability.

      "it neglects both manufacturer liability laws and federal/state/local laws regarding seller requirements"

      I believe you're just wrong here. Manufacturer liability laws wouldn't apply unless in the course of using the product as intended it caused unexpected harm due to the negligence of the manufacturer.

      As to seller requirements, there are no federal ones for this kind of product. If there are state or local ones and they violate them, then they'll be sued over it -- but I'm not aware of any that they would be violating. I'm not sure why you list all the examples you do, every one of them has nothing to do with this.

      The fact is that this is a legal product with legitimate, legal uses. It's hard to see how they could get into trouble about it unless they are encouraging or representing that product be used to break the law, or they are facilitating lawbreaking that is brought to their attention. This is as it should be.

       

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    AJ (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 9:13am

    It's hard to use the information though

    Anyone who gives out one of these phones has the same problem that the Allies had in WW2 with the decrypts that came out of Bletchley Park — you have to be extremely careful how you use the information, because you won't want your target to suspect what access you have to their actions. As soon as they find out, they'll stop using the phone for the kinds of activities that you want to follow...

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 11:05am

      Re: It's hard to use the information though

      Not to mention that they'll never, ever trust you or your gifts again.

      Yet another parallel to the NSA.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 11:34am

    Until someone figures out how to detect and render useless

     

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      That One Guy (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 1:59pm

      Re:

      I give it a week, maybe two, something like this seems like it would be a serious lure for people who like to tear into code to see how it works, so I'm sure they'll be all over it.

       

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        John Fenderson (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 2:59pm

        Re: Re:

        It's readily detectable on iDevices using the utilities that come with the phone. In SBSettings, go in MobileSubstrate and you will see the function MSpySB. In Cydia, go in Manage/Sources and you will see the line Mspy.biz

        I'll bet a fine dinner that it's equally detectable on Android devices, but I couldn't confirm it easily with my google-fu. If they didn't go out of their way to hide the process name on iPhones, they probably didn't do this on Android either.

        It's very likely shows up in the Running Processes viewer, and almost certainly shows up if you open a console and execute the command "ps -ax". The only real question is -- did they name the process something that sounds innocuous? They didn't on the iPhone...

         

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          That One Guy (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 10:31pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Okay, that lets you find it, but how about removing it and/or blocking it's transmissions?

          Knowing it's there is handy, but unless someone's got a spare phone lying around they can use, it doesn't do them much good(even if it does indicate they need to take a hefty stick to the head of whoever 'gave' them their phone), unless they're able to completely stop using it without any serious repercussions.

           

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            John Fenderson (profile), Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 1:12pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Even if it can't be removed and you have to use the phone, knowing you're being spied on is useful. It lets you know that you should be careful what you do with the phone.

            However, the odds are good this app can be removed like any other once you know it's there. Again, just guessing, but looking over what mSpy says about their app, it doesn't look like it's particularly sophisticated about self-protection.

            Generally speaking, I recommend that people use Android, root it, and run a firewall (I like DroidWall). This ensures that even if spyware finds its way onto your device, it can't actually talk to anything anyway. It also has a nice side-effect of blocking most in-app advertising.

             

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    Eric, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 6:44pm

    Nobody mentions....

    Two or three things. First. Everyone wants to talk about liability over this. I would agree that the person installing the software would be liable if the phone wasn't theirs. But on the other hand YOU buy it YOU pay for the service it's YOUR phone.
    Second, the article portrays the people doing the spying as primarily men. Are you serious? If it's not an equal amount, I'd wager that women would be more likely to buy this. It doesn't require an interest in software, or knowledge to install, just buy, give and reap the rewards. I think the phrase has something to do with someone being scandalous....
    Third. If you are so untrusting that you feel the need to buy an expensive ass cell phone to catch your significant other cheating, there are way way more problems than what tech you are using to figure it out. Seek help or terminate without confirmation.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 1:15pm

      Re: Nobody mentions....

      "But on the other hand YOU buy it YOU pay for the service it's YOUR phone."

      This wouldn't impact liability for giving the phone to someone else without them knowing it's being used to spy on them.

       

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    Anonymous, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 7:00pm

    The X-Files said it best

    Trust no ne.

     

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    identicon
    wireless camera, Feb 25th, 2015 @ 4:19am

    Wireless cameras

    50MW WIDE ANGLE MICRO CAMERA SPY KIT

    Medium power audio/video transmission kit, with direct video receiver and micro wide-angle camera. Ideal for covert operations.

    The professional kit ENWO-T101/W is the perfect system to conduct video and audio surveillance monitoring of objects or people from the middle distance (up to 100 meters).

    The particularity of this video surveillance system is the wireless micro camera with wide-angle lens, with an amplitude of 170 degrees, which guarantees the recovery of entire environments in real time with no loss of quality or focus.

    The 2.4GHZ 50mW integrated transmitter allows easy concealment of the video transmission module within small objects, making the process very easy and fast. For this reason this fantastic kit for video surveillance is often preferred to other similar solutions.

    The transmission kit, equipped with audio/video transmitter and DVR receiver, can be powered by battery or through electrical grid. The latter option, recommended in case of long time monitoring, can be obtained concealing the transmitter inside junction boxes or ravines directly interfaced with the electricity grid.

    http://www.endoacustica.com/50mw-wide-angle-micro-camera-high-power-handheld-receiver.htm

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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