Pakistani Man Pleads Guilty for Selling Spyware App, Ordered to Pay $500,000 Fine

Last month we reported that, Hammad Akbar, a Pakistani national and the chief executive of InvoCode Pvt Ltd was indicted in Virginia, USA for conspiring to advertise and sell StealthGenie, a spyware app that could monitor communications on smartphone without detection. Today, he pleaded guilty to the charges and was ordered to pay a $500,000 fine and sentenced to time served. He was also ordered to turn over the source code for the app to the US government.

U.S. Attorney Boente said, “The defendant advertised and sold a spyware app that could be secretly installed on smart phones without the knowledge of the phones owner. This spyware app allowed individuals to intercept phone calls, electronic mail, text messages, voicemails and photographs of others.  The product allowed for the wholesale invasion of privacy by other individuals, and this office in coordination with our law enforcement partners will prosecute not just users of apps like this, but the makers and marketers of such tools as well.”

Hammad Akbar is the first ever person to be charged as a criminal for advertising and selling spyware software. StealthGenie could be installed on Android, iOS and Blackberry devices. Once installed, it could intercept all conversations and text messages sent using the phone.  The app was undetectable by most users and was advertised as being untraceable.

StealthGenie had numerous functions that permitted it to intercept both outgoing and incoming calls, email, messages, voicemail, and pictures from the smartphone on which it was installed.  The app could also turn on the phone’s microphone when it was not in use and record sounds and conversations that occurred near the phone.  All of these functions could be enabled without the knowledge of the user of the phone.

In order to install the app, the purchaser needed at least temporary possession of the target phone.  During the installation process, the person installing the app was required to grant a series of permissions that allowed the app to access privileged information on the device.  Once the app was activated, it was started as a background service and set up to launch automatically when the phone was powered on.

Despite the guilty plea, some people are questioning why StealthGenie was targeted first. At least 4 major apps have the same functionality as SteathGenie and are still being sold. They are MobileSpy, MSpy, FlexiSPY, and MobiStealth.

According to Hanni Fakhoury, an attorney for the EFF, “The case against Akbar…is remarkable for its focus on the seller of a commercial software program—that is openly marketed on the internet—rather than on its users. The government is trying to say it’s not enough that the users are responsible, but that the maker is an enabler of this privacy invasion and are potentially liable.”

Talal is a Director and the Chief Content Officer at ProPakistani. Reach out at [email protected]

  • Smart guy, will pay $500k and walk away without practically serving time and also with all the additional money that he has made. Plus, if no one hires him, the US Government sure will :)

    • Yeah, the US government has a fresh shortage of morally corrupt individuals who can also write amateur code, which gets detected and fined. Good idea man! They should hire you too.

        • Mine was sarcasm too, kiddo.

          By the way, should you be really asking other people to Google words when you yourself don’t know the difference between its and it’s?

          • Misguided sarcasm son, misguided. And as for the it’s part… sorry I did not meet you high standards. I will spend the day crying in my closet :'(

  • U.S. government found the piece of software for spying hence the court has asked for source code so that NSA can use it in future.

    • seriously ? Do not underestimate the abilities of NSA, they don’t need some poor and desperately written code from some 3rd part to spy on you.

      • then why the court ordered for source code and why they caught him only, spyware programs are very common these days, many US companies offered software solution in order to conduct surveillance on spouse for their possible cheating.

  • That is such a bad verdict by court. He shouldn’t have been charged any fine or serving time but ordered to stop the service because this case was first of its kind.

  • He should instead just post the source Code all over the internet for free, That will be in a manner, a sweet revenge, hehehe

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