TV: Spyware allows hackers to tap into cell phones

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by Anne Yeager, kgw.com

kvue.com

Posted on September 23, 2009 at 10:01 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 21 at 4:04 PM

What if every move you make, someone's following you or someone is listening into your private phone conversations?

An alarming ad is running locally -- pay $30 and you can hack into your girlfriend's cell phone.

But is it legit?

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Courtney and her mom Heather Kuykendall are on edge whenever her cell phone rings. Last year, hackers tapped into the Tacoma teen's phone, leaving bone chilling messages.

"You are so dead."

"I will kill you."

"They said they were going to rape her. They called her boyfriend and said they already did," Heather said.

She got new phones, changed her number and still, the calls kept coming.

Now these ads are popping up on Craigslist. For- less than $30, you can hack into your girlfriend, your wife's or your boss' cell phone.

You can read text messages and find out who she or he is talking to.

"Technology is great but there's a dark side to it," Portland private investigator Gresg Parsons said.

He says the spyware commonly costs hundreds of dollars. It tracks everything.

"Who you are calling, who you are texting, who you are emailing."

But how does it all work?

Our sister station WTHR in Indianapolis bought the software and with her permission, downloaded it to a producer's phone.

It took awhile, but with some patience, they hacked into her telephone. They could find out who she texted, even "listen-in" to her phone calls.

"Can they prey on jealousies? Yep," FBI cyber crimes expert Jim Rogers says.

He says this is software law enforcement officers have been using for years.

"Computers were invented on day one. Day two this started happening."

But now, they are sold to anyone over the Internet who is willing to pay for it. They are mostly shipped from overseas, because these programs are illegal in the united states.

So what can you do if you think someone hacked into your phone? The first thing to check and see if your phone is not working right.

Experts say this software exhausts your battery life. And check your phone bill, you could see a spike in your minutes being used. Finally, you can go to your cell phone provider.

"If your ex boyfriend is hacking you, chances are, he's not going to keep that to himself," Rogers says.

Keep your eyes and ears open. Portland police are now training detectives on this new frontier of stalking.

But do these hackers ever get caught?

"Law enforcement has come light years from technical crimes. People think they can't catch me but guess again," Rogers says.

But in the case of Courtney Kuykendall, it got worse. The hackers were using the camera function to keep an eye on her.

They even found a way to put what Courtney said on her outgoing voice mail messages

But police could never figure out who hacked into Courtney's phone.

The harassment stopped eventually. But in private investigator Parson's line of work, it's jaw-dropping to know how popular this software is.

And disheartening to know that someone could be listening to you right now.

"Well, you have just opened up your entire private life."

"The wonderful thing is you are connected to everyone. The worst thing is you are connected to everyone," Rogers says.

If you find that you are a victim, report it to your local police.

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