Federal Court Shuts Down Spyware Product Permanently
ALEXANDRIA, VA—Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, announced today that U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema has put a permanent stop to the advertising, marketing, or sale of the spyware application (or “app”) called StealthGenie. The court preliminarily shut down the app in September, when it issued a temporary restraining order. The court has now permanently enjoined use of and access to the app.
Before it was shut down the StealthGenie app could be installed on a variety of smartphones and operated without the user’s knowledge. It allowed the purchaser of StealthGenie software to: monitor the smartphone user’s incoming and outgoing phone calls; intercept calls in real time without the knowledge of the smartphone user; monitor the smartphone user’s e-mail and text messages; and activate the phone without the user’s knowledge so conversations within earshot of the smartphone could be monitored. All of this could be done without the knowledge of the smartphone user.
In September, the United States filed a civil lawsuit against app creator Hammad Akbar, of Lahore, Pakistan, asking the court to order that the app be shut down immediately, temporarily, and then permanently. Mr. Akbar was arrested in Los Angeles, California, on September 27, 2014, for violating a federal law that prohibits the manufacturing, sale, or possession of any device whose primary purpose is the surreptitious interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications. In November 2014, Akbar pled guilty to related charges in the Eastern District of Virginia. The law also allows the United States to ask a court to prohibit the production, use, or possession of the device.
The court’s order is the result of a coordinated effort by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kevin Mikolashek and Jay Prabhu of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia; William Hall of the United States Department of Justice Criminal Division; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:14cv1273 and 1:14cr276.