DENVER - It's like something out of a James Bond movie. "Spyware" you can secretly install on a cell phone. It allows you to eavesdrop, and gives you access to everything the person does on the phone.
And they'll never know it's happening.
Fox 31 investigative reporter Julie Hayden found out this new cell phone spyware takes the "big brother" concept to an unprecedented level. "Overall I think this is very dangerous software capability, I think this is an invasion of privacy," said Jennifer, who participated in a test of the new spyware for FOX 31 News.
The spyware was downloaded from the website, and then put on a "target phone," which was given to Jennifer's fiancée, Neil. She had the "monitor phone."
Jennifer watched her phone as a she received a text message that alerted her that Neil made a call on his phone. Every time Neil's phone sent or received a call, text message, or email, Jennifer's phone was alerted.
"I just can't believe that I'm listening in on this conversation," Jennifer said.
Even more unnerving, the monitor phone can dial the target phone number, even if Neil isn't using the phone, and hear whatever is going on around the phone. Neil's phone becomes a microphone for Jennifer to listen. "How invasive this is is really the shocking part," she said.
Neil had no idea his cell phone was turned into an eavesdropping device. When he found out, he said, "There's no way to tell. It's not okay."
Depending on who owns the phone, it's probably not illegal to use this spyware on the cell phone.
"From a marriage point of view it's communal property, so that probably is not illegal," said Dr. Steve Beaty of Metro State University. He also said that if the phone is provided by an employer, and they want to track it, they are legally capable of doing that.
The spyware even allows you to track the physical location of the target cell phone. It's linked to a Google map and will even take you down to street level. "That's really creepy," Jennifer said. "So I could call him and say 'so, you're driving by Walgreens right now.'"
In fact, she did call Neil. "I'm watching where you are on GPS, listening in on the conversation and tracking any text messages you might send out." You can hear Neil respond on his phone: "I have to say I don't like that."
The spyware is set up so you can track everything on the target phone on a web site. It records all text messages, incoming and outgoing calls, voice mails, emails, and the location of the phone throughout the day.
Beaty says right now there is no way to block the spyware, or detect it. "I think we should understand about so many of the devices around us that we are not completely in control," he said.
In order to make it work, you must have access to the target phone to link it to a computer and download the spyware. But experts say it's only a matter of time before someone develops the ability to install it and work it remotely.
Information on how to know if your phone is being spied on:
Additional resources here: