The New York Attorney General’s Office announced a $410,000 fine for a stalkerware developer who used 16 companies to illegally promote surveillance tools.
Stalkerware (or spyware) platforms allow their clients to monitor other people’s phones without users’ knowledge. In some, if not most, cases they are also used to monitor the online activity of targets and collect sensitive information about users, such as their location, which could then be used for blackmail or various other purposes. malicious.
Patrick Hinchy, the spyware vendor, has also agreed to alert its customers’ victims that their phones are being secretly monitored using one of its multiple applications, including Auto Forward, Easy Spy, DDI Utilities, Highster Mobile, PhoneSpector, Surepoint or TurboSpy.
These monitoring apps allowed Hinchy customers to secretly monitor what other people were doing on their mobile devices, including location, browsing history, call logs, text messages, photos and videos, email activity, WhatsApp and Skype chats, and social media activity.
Some of the stalkerware apps also “allowed a user to remotely activate the target device’s camera or microphone to allow spying or eavesdropping on the device’s owner,” according to the agreement.
Stalkerware ads have also been used to trick customers into believing spying is legal, even though installing such software on someone else’s device without their consent violates many state and federal laws. .
Spying on a partner’s phone without their consent isn’t just a sign of an unhealthy relationship, it’s against the law.
Today, we stopped several companies from illegally promoting spy products:
Calls and texts
Photos and videos
Emails and social networks
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) February 2, 2023
“Spying on a partner and tracking their cell phone without their knowledge is not only a sign of an unhealthy relationship, it’s against the law,” Attorney General James said.
“These apps and products put New Yorkers at risk of harassment and domestic violence, and have been aggressively promoted by Patrick Hinchy through 16 different companies.
“Today’s agreement will prevent these companies from allowing New Yorkers to be unknowingly monitored, and will continue our ongoing fight to protect the rights, safety and privacy of New Yorkers.”
In September 2021, the US Federal Trade Commission also banned stalkerware maker Spyfone monitoring activity. The settlement also required Spyfone to notify owners of devices on which the stalkerware was installed that the devices were being monitored and were no longer secure.
This came three years after a data breach in August 2018 caused by an unprotected Amazon S3 bucket containing several terabytes of data harvested from more than 3,600 devices.
In October 2019, the The FTC also blocked Retina-X studios (aka Retina-X) to sell three stalkerware mobile apps (MobileSpy, PhoneSheriff and TeenShield). Retina-X stopped selling them in 2018 before the FTC settlement after two cloud storage breaches in February 2017 and February 2018.
Advertisement for spyware and surveillance technologies on Google was also banned globally from August 11, 2020, after the search giant updated its Google Ads Enabling Dishonest Behavior policy a month earlier.