Nov 29, 2007
For most of us, the cell phone is our lifeline, but in the wrong hands it's can be a high-tech snooping device.Somebody could be watching or listening with software that could turn your cell phone into their eyes and ears to track your every move. "Your phone can basically spy on you in a heartbeat," says security expert Howard Schmidt.A man we'll call "Dirk," who spoke on condition of anonymity, says he worried about his cyber stalker -- his ex-girlfriend. Even when Dirk's cell phone was off, his ex spied on him. She managed to access his cell remotely without him knowing. With Dirk's cell phone she knew his every move: when he was alone at the corner coffee shop, what he bought at the grocery store, who he ate dinner with -- even details about his dinner conversation. "She always seemed to know where I was at -- 'So you're with so-and-so' -- and I would be with that person, all the time," says Dirk. At first, Dirk chalked it up to a good guess and blamed himself for being paranoid. "She would say 'I'm psychic. I know how you think.'" He believed it. But when his ex knew things he intentionally didn't tell her, that's when it clicked: his cell phone was her microphone. "She knows too much, there is no way she could know this, without having a listening device," Dirk said.Sneaky Software"You don't know what your mobile phone is doing beyond what you think it's doing," insists Schmidt, who worked as a cyber security adviser to the White House and Microsoft's chief security officer.He insists it all comes down to one word: software. If a stalker gets a hold of your phone, he can install it."Some of the software is designed so it will take that conversation and send it through the Internet to a Web site and you can click on the Web site and listen to it," says Schmidt.Schmidt says once the software is installed, you can listen in on conversations from anywhere in the world. And in Dirk's case, even if the phone was off, his ex could hear any conversation taking place within the vicinity of the cell phone.'This Could Result In Something Catastrophic'Schmidt says software already controls every function on cell phones, but spy software can add other functions, like allowing the snoop to remotely and silently turn on a cell phone's microphone while the phone appears to remain off."I said 'how do you know that? How do you know?' " Dirk said. "She said, 'I just know who you are, I know who you are.' "Schmidt says it can result in something catastrophic: "We've seen stalking things go bad where people actually lost their lives over it."And high-tech surveillance isn't limited to a jilted lover. As long as your cell phone is capable of Internet access, Schmidt says it can be hijacked -- and so can confidential e-mails, financial transactions and intellectual property, all without you ever knowing. "It's a mobile PC," says Schmidt.The best defense? Never let your cell phone out of your sight. Schmidt says spy software can be installed in minutes. Dirk thinks that's how his nightmare began. He wants to warn others because the consequences can be long term and severe. "I still can't see myself being in a relationship," says Dirk. He says if you think you're paranoid, check it out -- it could be the eyes and ears in your pocket watching and listening to you. Even when he got a new phone or new number, it didn't stop. "I actually changed it 4 times in one week, she found my number every single time."Dirk says more than year ago he moved out of state and eventually the stalking stopped. As an extra layer of precaution, when he's not using his phone he takes the battery out.Cyber Stalking A Misdemeanor CrimeAccording to court documents filed last year, the FBI arrested two alleged mobsters by using their cell phones as listening devices -- even when their phones were off.Cyber stalking is a misdemeanor crime in Washington unless the perpetrator threatens the victim. Then it becomes a Class C felony.Schmidt also warns you can be tricked into putting spyware on your phone, so know who you're downloading from. When you download things like ring tones or programs for stock quotes, you're giving someone else access to your cell phone.If something doesn't seem right, experts insist it's unlikely you'll be able to detect it on your phone. You may need hi-tech help.
Posted by Jane at Thursday, November 29, 2007 |