Is your personal device spying on you? - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Is your personal device spying on you?

By Elizabeth Gentle - bio | email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Federal prosecutors in Pennsylvania are looking into whether a Philadelphia-area school district spied on students using remote controlled cameras in school-issued laptops.

The parents of a 15-year old student have sued the school district in federal court saying officials used the webcam in their son's laptop to spy on him.

We wanted to learn more about this so-called age of spying.

What we found is this, its simple to install the software and in most cases you don't even know an extra set of eyes are following you.

"A lot of it is done through the Internet so you can remotely monitor everything that person does all the way down to the keys that they type, websites that they visit," said David Rackley with Rackley Technologies, LLC.

Today's technology is designed to intrude on the privacy of spouses, friends, children, even employees.

David Rackley is owner of an Internet technologies firm in Pulaski, Tennessee.

"I actually had trouble with an employee a while back.  Every time I left the office this person was doing different things, getting on Facebook whatever.  I asked them to stop, they wouldn't do it.  Finally I loaded the software on their machine, watched it, had proof, that person is no longer here," said Rackley.

Loading spy ware onto a personal device is easier than you might think, especially with cell phones.

For example, mobile spy ware can be installed when your not looking.

Or if a hacker sends a text message to your smart phone and the message is opened, spyware is instantly installed.

"You can actually have the phone turn on remotely to monitor a room. That's pretty scary," said Rackley.

The Internet is loaded with sites offering software which can capture incoming and outgoing call logs, SMS messages and emails on Windows based mobile devices, like iphones and Blackberries.

The information is uploaded to a website, where you can physically check each entry.

Kelley DeMontt works in the cell phone department at Best Buy.

"Say for instance a wife wanted to know where her husband was going, they wanted to know where their children were they have added these services just as a precaution," said Kelley DeMontt.

Parents who are worried about misbehaving children or cheating spouses are no longer turning to private investigators but instead to Internet mobile spyware to track their targets.

But how well does this technology work and is it worth the money and hassle?

Will Posey is a local private eye.

He doesn't use that type software in his business but agreed to try one of the more popular sites for a three month subscription of $50.

"The only thing that worked was the SMS text messaging. Worked well. Log on to the website and read the text messages," said Posey.

Posey used his own cell phone to text back and forth with another employee in the office.

Every text sent to and from his cell phone, was recorded and documented to Posey's PC in just minutes.

Sound good enough?

Posey warns not every website is credible.

"Make sure they are a valid company because my experience is there are a lot out there just scams, just viruses," said Posey.

Police warn it's not a good idea to spy on anyone through email, text, webcam or phone.

In some cases, it can lead to an arrest, and possible wire taping charges.

Cell phones are a little easier to detect if spyware has been installed.

Here are 3 warning signs:

If your cell phone battery is warm even when your phone has not been used, your cell phone lights up at unexpected times, including occasions when the phone is not in use, and it unexpectedly beeps or clicks during phone conversations.

You can read more about cell phone spyware by clicking on the following links:

http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS123924+26-Oct-2009+PRN20091026

http://blogs.zdnet.com/security/?p=4900

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