BLACKBERRY USERS are being warned that a freely available spyware program will turn their crackberry into a listening device.
The application is called Phonesnoop and allows remote users to listen in on a Blackberry user's surroundings. The spyware app uses standard Blackberry APIs to intercept incoming calls. Once the software is installed, a call from a trigger phone number will activate the listening feature through the phone's built-in speakerphone feature to listen to everything that's going on around the phone.
The program's developer, Sheran Gunasekera, says on his blog that he only wanted to point out the dangers of using Blackberry phones carelessly.
The Phonesnoop app doesn't try to be stealthy, though. After it's installed it is clearly visible in the downloads section of the device's user interface. When the listening feature is activated the screen looks as though it is on a call. This is not hard to detect.
The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team has jumped on this 'threat' and issued a warning, basically telling crackberry addicts to use a password to protect their phone and, err, don't let other people download things to your handset. They even warn against downloading software if you are not sure who made it, which is surely one of the first things that everyone learns about downloading any software.
While a phone in your pocket is unlikely to listen in on your high level talks discussing the security of a mainframe at a major bank, and more likely to pick up a muffled shopping trip, the knowledge that such software exists and isn't all that difficult to develop does give one pause.
Earlier this year the leading mobile operator in the United Arab Emirates, Etisalat, tried to download a patch to 100,000 of its BlackBerry customers that later turned out to be a spyware program. µ
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