Spouse cyberspying dangerous, possibly illegal

Surveillance software increasingly used on victims of domestic violence

In that case, Loverspy's creator, Carlos-Enrique Perez-Melara, was indicted with others for "advertising" an interception device, "unlawfully intercepting electronic communications," and "unauthorized access to protected computers for financial gain." But in that case, the accused fled the country before the trial concluded.

Several other commercial spyware packages target detection and eradication. They include Iambigbrother for the desktop PC, and cell phone/smartphone packages like Neo-Call and Flexispy.

"Some of these mobile spyware tools steal information and send it out of the phone," said F-Secure's CTO Mikko Hypponen, who spoke about detecting and eradicating them with F-Secure's security software during a presentation at the recent Black Hat Conference. "Some market the tool saying, install this and monitor your spouse. We think many of these programs are in big use and are just espionage."

"Flexispy gives no indication of running, so we'll detect it and give the user the option to delete it," says Todd Thiemann, director of device security marketing at Trend Micro.

"Most of these use stealth, so we consider it a 'potentially unwanted program,' and it's always unsafe,'" says Hiep Dang, McAfee's director of antimalware research, who says McAfee's software can detect SpectorSoft applications.

That antimalware vendors are targeting SpectorSoft products bothers Fowler, who says his company continually works to come up with improved evasion tactics for its software. "Too many of the antivirus vendors will just take it off your computer, but the vast majority of our customers are legitimate," Fowler concludes.

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