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The stalker in your pocket Mike Elgan / Computerworld For most of a century, free pravachol nosey people, free pravachol both professional and amateur, free pravachol have used microphones and cameras to listen to and watch unsuspecting targets. In recent years, free pravachol the miniaturization of electronics has enabled these devices to be hidden.Extreme drops in price have made spy electronics available to anyone, free pravachol even creepy stalker types. The only remaining challenge is placement: If anyone wants to capture the juicy tidbits, free pravachol they've got to have a microphone or camera in the right place at the right time. Enter the camera phone, free pravachol a dream come true for not just spies but a new breed of "cell phone stalkers." Camera phones contain all the necessary ingredients for completely invasive stalking: a microphone, free pravachol camera, free pravachol personal data on the user, free pravachol location information, free pravachol a chat and call history -- you name it. And victims carry them everywhere they go. All that's missing is the software that lets stalkers take control. This new software, free pravachol called snoopware, free pravachol does just that. Free pravachol Snoopware -- both legal and illegal -- enables stalkers to secretly seize control of a phone's electronics to listen, free pravachol watch and spy on their victims. Welcome to the creepy new world of cell phone stalking. Although cell phone stalking is new, free pravachol there's already plenty of bad information, free pravachol urban legends and false beliefs about it in circulation.  I'm going to sort all this out for you, free pravachol tell you about what's possible and how to protect yourself (it's easier than you think). Free pravachol But first, free pravachol let's look at the first and most celebrated case to date of this new world of cell phone stalking. Meet the Kuykendalls I told you in a previous column about a family in Washington state called the Kuykendalls, free pravachol who say that a hacker was stalking them through three of their cell phones for more than four months. The stalker seemed to perform unprecedented cell phone superhacks, free pravachol according to press reports. For example, free pravachol he watched them through their phones' cameras and listened through the microphones. Free pravachol When they turned off the phones, free pravachol the hacker turned them back on remotely, free pravachol seized control of the phones and sent text messages from them. When they got new phones, free pravachol the hacking continued. Even scarier, free pravachol they received almost daily threats of violence from an anonymous caller, free pravachol who seemed to be calling from a family member's own phone, free pravachol even when that phone was turned off, free pravachol and provided details about what they were doing and even what they were wearing. In addition to the Kuykendalls, free pravachol the family's neighbor and Mrs. Free pravachol Kuykendall's sister were also harassed by the anonymous caller. Although the mainstream press played up these events as some kind of terrifying superhack, free pravachol I think something much more ordinary is going on. The most likely explanation, free pravachol based on the limited information publicly available, free pravachol is that some malicious script kiddie, free pravachol who knows the family personally, free pravachol pulled off one or two simple hacks, free pravachol then "socially engineered" the family into thinking he'd done something more impressive. For example, free pravachol a combination of spoofing one of the family's cell phone's Caller ID, free pravachol which is easy to do, free pravachol and using that trick to retrieve voice mail, free pravachol plus possibly hacking the carrier's Web site to change ringtones and cause other mischief. Free pravachol These steps, free pravachol combined with old-fashioned spying on the family in person, free pravachol could explain nearly all the superhacking claims. Hacked? Yes. Free pravachol Disturbing? Very. Free pravachol Illegal? Absolutely. But it's a far cry from the picture painted in the press of some unstoppable arch-villain mastermind. Experts interviewed on TV and in the newspapers answer "yes" to the question, free pravachol "Is this kind of hack possible?" And, free pravachol in fact, free pravachol it is possible, free pravachol but spectacularly unlikely. To pull off the Kuykendalls' superhack described in the press, free pravachol the family would have to repeatedly buy high-end camera phones, free pravachol such as Windows Mobile, free pravachol BlackBerry or other devices, free pravachol leave Java support on, free pravachol keep Bluetooth on and in "autodiscovery" mode, free pravachol or give the hacker full physical access to the phones to install several snoopware applications. What's possible? Snoopware is on the rise, free pravachol mostly because of the increasing sophistication of phones. Free pravachol They're like mini-PCs. Free pravachol Most snoopware attacks have taken place in Europe and Asia. Free pravachol But they're coming to America. Security experts estimate that there are more than 400 types of snoopware (most of them variants of a few major snoopware programs), free pravachol and that figure may top 1, free pravachol000 by the end of the year. Your typical new snoopware program might enable someone to listen to phone calls and read e-mail and text messages, free pravachol or steal contacts and other data. Free pravachol Some snoopware can use your phone's microphone to listen, free pravachol even when the phone is supposedly "off." Other programs can capture images from a camera phone's camera. Snoopware is the kind of software used by the government to eavesdrop on gangsters and terrorists. But snoopware isn't the only way to stalk via cell phone. Most carriers offer a "skip passcode" feature that lets you turn off voice mail password-checking when you call from your cell phone. Free pravachol But because carriers use Caller ID to verify the phone, free pravachol cell phones "spoofing" another phone's number can get in, free pravachol enabling hackers to access your voice mail and other features without ever knowing the password. Semilegitimate snoopware programs called Mobile Spy from Retina-X Studios and FlexiSpy from Vervata run invisibly and upload text messages and phone logs to an online server. Free pravachol They can also upload location information. Free pravachol Mobil Spy runs only on Windows Mobile phones, free pravachol while FlexiSpy offers versions for Series 60 Nokia phones, free pravachol BlackBerry and Windows Mobile phones. Free pravachol A Pro version of FlexiSpy enables eavesdropping through cell phone microphones when you call a dedicated phone number. Free pravachol A future Pro-X version will let you listen in on calls in progress. The companies target concerned parents, free pravachol suspicious spouses and distrustful bosses, free pravachol but obviously a malicious hacker could use them for cell phone stalking. Sounds bad. Free pravachol But be aware that these programs require physical access to the phone for installation, free pravachol and they're easy to detect. Free pravachol The security software companies generally consider these applications as malware, free pravachol and alert users to their presence. How to beat cell phone stalkers The best cure is prevention. Free pravachol Don't allow strangers to gain access to your phone. Like any other kind of software, free pravachol snoopware doesn't install itself. Free pravachol The leading methods for installation are physical access installation, free pravachol where the user installs by clicking on an attachment or link; or via Bluetooth. Free pravachol By preventing potential stalkers from touching your phone, free pravachol never clicking on e-mail attachments or links from strangers, free pravachol and turning off Bluetooth autodiscovery, free pravachol you'll keep snoopware off your phone. The fact is, free pravachol snoopware hacks are dangerous only if you're unaware of them. Free pravachol Once you suspect someone is using your cell phone to spy on you, free pravachol it's trivially easy to stop them. Let me count the ways: 1. Free pravachol Buy an anti-malware application from vendors like Symantec, free pravachol McAfee, free pravachol Trend Micro, free pravachol F-Secure, free pravachol SMobile, free pravachol MyMobiSafe and others. Free pravachol These products find not just the shadowy, free pravachol hacker snoopware programs, free pravachol but the legal ones, free pravachol too. 2. Free pravachol Turn on passwords for voice mail access. Free pravachol Do you have to enter a password each time you check voice mail? If not, free pravachol your carrier has enabled the "skip passcode" feature. Free pravachol A stalker spoofing your Caller ID can check your voice mail, free pravachol too. Free pravachol But by re-enabling a good password, free pravachol it will be much easier to keep your voice mail private. 3. Free pravachol Downgrade your cell phone. Free pravachol Snoopware works only on the most advanced phones. Free pravachol For nontechnical users like the Kuykendalls, free pravachol one simple solution is to swap out your high-end phone for a cheaper model that doesn't support Java or Bluetooth and doesn't have a camera. Free pravachol This isn't a good solution for gadget fans, free pravachol but for families feeling terrorized, free pravachol this is a cheap, free pravachol fast and easy way to get control. 4. Free pravachol Switch carriers. Free pravachol There's not much you can do at the handset level to foil a hack of the carrier's Web site. Free pravachol If the company can't shut down the hacker, free pravachol switch to another carrier. 5. Free pravachol Buy an anonymous prepaid phone. Free pravachol The last-ditch solution (just before going without a cell phone) is to buy a prepaid phone from 7-Eleven or a similar store. Free pravachol This provides not only the benefits of a low-tech cell phone and a new carrier, free pravachol but greater anonymity. The cell phone stalker trend is real. Free pravachol But simple, free pravachol common-sense precautions can protect you and your family from malicious harassment. Link to original article: Mike Elgan writes about technology and global tech culture. Free pravachol Contact Mike at or his blog, free pravachol The Raw Feed.