Hackers can see text messages, listen in on every move and even identify someone’s precise physical location by hijacking a cell phone. Manufacturers of spyware software are selling its wares as ways to catch a cheating partner or make sure a child’s babysitter is doing their job properly, but the software, which allows someone to use their cell phone to peek in on another person, could obviously have sinister uses as well.
“It’s very real, and unfortunately it’s going on as we speak,” says Mike Carr, the University of Mexico’s director of information assurance. “I can follow you around if your phone has GPS technology. I can see where you are. I can read your emails. I can read your text messaging.” The spyware software even lets the hacker listen in real time even when their target is not actually using their cell phone. “A lot of the snoop ware or spyware that’s installed on cell phones is very hidden and the user doesn’t know that they’ve been installed,” Carr notes, adding that if people really want to break into someone else’s cell phone, they can and will. “And that’s a scary thing.”
It is illegal to use the spyware software in the United States, although it’s legal to just download it off the Internet. Carr advises people to watch out for telltale signs that your phone may have been hacked, such as your browser or address book being open without your instruction.