The state of New York has forced a notorious spyware and stalkerware developer to pay a major fine and notify all of the victims that their smartphones were being monitored without their consent.
In a Twitter thread, New York attorney general Letitia James’ office said spyware vendor Patrick Hinchy has to pay a $410,000 fine for building the tools, and using 16 companies to illegally promote them. Hinchy was also said to have been promoting the tools via ads that claimed spying was legal.
Among the apps he created were the likes of Auto Forward, Easy Spy, DDI Utilities, Highster Mobile, PhoneSpector, Surepoint, and TurboSpy.
The apps were apparently advertised as a good way to keep track of spouses, lovers, or anyone users wished to target. They enabled the users to track people’s activities on their mobile phones, track their location, browsing history, call logs, texts, photos and videos, email, activities on various chat messaging platforms, as well as social media.
Some of the apps even enabled users to remotely activate both the camera and the microphone.
"Snooping on a partner and tracking their cell phone without their knowledge isn't just a sign of an unhealthy relationship, it is against the law," the tweet reads. "These apps and products put New Yorkers at risk of stalking and domestic abuse, and were aggressively promoted by Patrick Hinchy through 16 different companies. Today's agreement will block these companies from allowing New Yorkers to be monitored without their awareness, and will continue our ongoing fight to protect New Yorkers' rights, safety, and privacy."
The websites promoting these apps, as well as the prices, are almost identical across the board. AutoForward, DDI Utilities, PhoneSpector, are all almost identical in design and cost the same - $4.99 for the Basic, and $6.99 for the Pro plan. Easy Spy would set you back $69.99.
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Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.