Mobile phone users warned of dangers in 'spy' software

[FONT=Geneva,Arial,sans-serif]David Smith, technology correspondent
Sunday September 3, 2006

[/FONT]Would you spy on your spouse? A company is urging consumers to buy 'secret' mobile phone software so they can read their partner's text messages. Yet it 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.
'It's true you could wrap up something like this and transmit it virally, but that's not the business we're in,' admitted Atir Raihan, Vervata's managing director. 'There are other companies doing this, but we're not.'
Asked why the company's website promotes spying on a spouse, which could be deemed unlawful, Raihan said: 'It's to make people smile. People have their own reasons for buying all sorts of things - they don't all buy cars to rob banks.' 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.'