Here is one company’s promise on its website to anyone who wants to eavesdrop on someone else’s cellphone: “You could now listen in 100% completely undetected.”
The average person now has easy access to spy technology allowing them to gather cellphone information, read private emails, and track someone’s location using GPS. Experts say that the technologies are being used by spouses and partners to track, harass and stalk. “Technology has just exploded. It’s so sophisticated now and it’s very easy to utilize these different technologies to keep tabs on a person and find out where they’re going,” said Gina Pfund, chief assistant prosecutor of the Domestic Violence Unit in Passaic County.
This is very scary stuff when this type of technology gets into the wrong hands or is abused. I know of one woman who was being stalked by her ex-boyfriend and eventually learned he was tracking her whereabouts via her cellphone.
Experts say the person watching or listening is often a family member and frequently a suspicious or controlling partner. They have scanned Facebook pages, viewed online web-browsing histories, and examined cellphone records for proof. However, some take it a step further, planting spyware on smart phones and computers.
Spyware is being aggressively marketed online as a means to find out if a spouse is cheating. It can be installed on computers to monitor keystrokes, emails and passwords and to take screen snapshots. Spy software can also be installed on a smart phone to allow a third party to monitor calls, view text messages and photos, and track a person’s location and movement via GPS. A built-in microphone can also be remotely activated and used as a listening device, even when a phone is turned off. Technology experts say the phone user has no idea they are being spied on.
Richard Drobnick, director of the Teaneck based Mars & Venus Counseling Center, said some forms of snooping can be justified because “people need to know the truth.” For people who fear a partner is cheating, technology may be used as a way to put that suspicion to rest or to gain proof. “Try to talk about it, but if you still have very strong doubts and you find one of these other methods, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” Drobnick said.
For those who are victims of abuse or stalking, here are some tips:
Recommendations to protect a smart phone from spyware:
- Use passwords for access to the phone and its SIM card
- Restrict access to the phone by others
- Never download suspicious software
- Know how to remotely erase all stored information should the phone be lost or stolen
- Shop around for a phone that can support a full range of security options
For victims of stalking and domestic violence:
- Use a “safe” computer, such as one at a library or a friend’s house. Also, change phone passwords often and use new or disposable cellphones not within a family plan.
- For more safety tips on Internet and phone security, visit the Network for Surviving Stalking at nssadvice.org or the National Network to End Domestic Violence at nnedv.org
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