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FTC Targets First ‘Stalkerware’ Company, Signaling Tougher Stance on Spy Apps

Industry regulation

FTC Targets First ‘Stalkerware’ Company, Signaling Tougher Stance on Spy Apps

The Federal Trade Commission wants to permanently ban applications company Support King and its CEO Scott Zuckerman from the surveillance technology business for marketing a product that is being used by stalkers to discreetly monitor their intended victims electronically. In a complaint issued Wednesday, the commission alleged that SpyFone, which Support King purportedly markets as a “tool to monitor loved ones,” actually enabled the illegal harvesting of phone data, emails and even the locations of unsuspecting victims.

Sold on a subscription basis, SpyFone’s premium version was marketed as allowing users to monitor a person’s sent and received messages, posts made on social media, video chats, live location, and other personal information. An “Xtreme” version allowed unfettered access to private activities and included a key logger and live screen viewing. It also allowed the user to take pictures remotely and to secretly activate the microphone on the device to record conversations and phone calls, the FTC alleged in its complaint against Zuckerman and his business.

The FTC also accused SpyFone of failing to enact basic security measures to safeguard the data it collects, leading to a 2018 data breach that exposed the personal information of roughly 2,200 customers. The commission further alleged that the company failed to follow through on promises to customers that it would upgrade its security after the incident, CyberScoop reported Wednesday.

FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra said that the complaint against the SpyFone app’s vendors marks a significant change from the agency’s past approach to “stalkerware” companies. The official, however, added that the FTC’s power alone is insufficient to dismantle the stalkerware industry.

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Category: Cybersecurity