Hammad Akbar, the creator of the “stalker app” StealthGenie, has been arrested by the FBI. StealthGenie is an app that you can install on someone’s smartphone. The app will then report back to you about their conversations, or show you where they have traveled during the course of the day. According to the feds, this app is illegal because it falls under the description of a “surreptitious interception device.” Learn all about Akbar and his controversial app right here.
1. The FBI Arrested StealthGenie’s Hammad Akbar on Saturday
— [ Crime News ] (@goinsidecrime) September 29, 2014
The FBI arrested Hammad Akbar in Los Angeles last Saturday, September 27. Akbar, the creator of StealthGenie, is a Pakistani national. According to his LinkedIn profile, Akbar attended Aston University in Birmingham, England. The FBI has charged Akbar with “conspiracy and sale of a surreptitious interception device“.
According to the Daily Mail, the FBI is interested in StealthGenie because of its comprehensive (and, some would say, disturbing) ability to spy and control a person’s smartphone. The Daily Mail writes:
“According to the indictment, the app allowed the interception of all incoming and outgoing calls on a mobile phone to be monitored in real time. It also gave the user complete access to all data on the victims phone while also allowing them to monitor all conversations within 15 feet of the handset.”
The app is marketed for about $60 and offers “undetectable and untraceable” service. This is the first time the federal government has prosecuted the maker of a spyware app. The app was available for iPhones, Android phones, and Blackberry.
2. The StealthGenie Website Has Been Taken Down
Learn more about StealthGenie in the radio report above.
As of October 1, our attempts to load the StealthGenie website were met with error messages. It believed that the site has been taken down due to the ongoing federal investigation.
According to the FBI’s report on the StealthGenie arrest, the website takedown is temporary, though it is not clear when or if the site will be reactivated. StealthGenie’s Twitter account was still working as of 10:45 a.m. Eastern time on October 1. However, the last tweet from the account was sent on July 10.
3. StealthGenie Customers Could Face Charges at a Future Date
The video above explains how StealthGenie’s geo-fencing works.
The StealthGenie case is unusual because the charges have been brought against the maker of the app, rather than being brought against the users of the app first. WIRED writes:
“The case against Akbar…is remarkable for its focus on the seller of a commercial software program—that is openly marketed on the internet—rather than on its users.
‘The government is trying to say it’s not enough that the users are responsible, but that the maker is an enabler of this privacy invasion and are potentially liable,’ says Hanni Fakhoury, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. A Justice Department spokesman told WIRED there are currently no additional charges filed over StealthGenie. But that’s not to say customers won’t eventually be charged as well.”
4. Many Other Services Do Exactly What StealthGenie Did
One YouTuber shares their experiences with MSpy, an app similar to StealthGenie.
Forbes is quick to note that StealthGenie is far from the only company out there that sells apps and services that can be used to stalk someone or spy on their every move. Forbes specifically notes four services: MobileSpy, MSpy, FlexiSPY, and MobiStealth. The costs of these services run from $20 for two weeks, to $350 for a year. One of these services, MSpy, claims to have over a million customers.
Some people are approving of the arrest of Hammad Akbar, arguing that this type of stalker app is often used by perpetrators of domestic violence to control their victims. However, there are some who question why StealthGenie was targeted first, when so many other companies are also doing the same thing.
5. You Can Protect Yourself If You Think You Are Being Spied on With This App
If you suspect a stalker, spouse, or acquaintance of installing StealthGenie or a similar type of spying app on your smartphone, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. The FBI suggests the following in their report on the StealthGenie arrest:
“Determining if your phone contains the spyware can be difficult—the spyware app could be installed to look like another app or file. Possible options include enlisting other apps—or private computer forensics companies—to scan your mobile device for malicious software. In a public service announcement about StealthGenie, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) said the best option for people concerned that their mobile phones contain the spyware would be to conduct a ‘factory reset’ of the device, which removes all data and apps and restores the mobile phone to its original condition. Be sure to first back-up the data you want to save.”