Google Pushed Illegal Phone Spyware to Snoop on Your Spouse

Theyre the sort of capabilities you might ordinarily prescribe to a cybercrime group or law-enforcement agency: intercepting text messages, remotely eavesdropping on phone calls, or sweeping up emails and social-media messages en masse.

But dozens of firms around the world sell powerful mobile-phone spyware to the everyday consumer, and in many cases with the explicit purpose of enabling surveillance on husbands, wives, and lovers.

And though the U.S. Justice Department has convicted people who use this technology as well as those who sell it, Google, through its ad services, has kept on running advertisements for many of the companies that offer it, The Daily Beast has found. After being informed of the issue, Google removed thousands of offending ads, but the news still highlights how Silicon Valley companies are sometimes unwitting accomplices to the sale of illegal technology, and how those same companies often let dubious clients slip through the cracks.

Spy on wife app […] invisible mode, a Google ad from one company read Monday.

With these pieces of malware, an attackerbe that a jealous or suspicious lover or stalker, for examplewill need physical access to the targets mobile phone. Typically, theyll visit a webpage that hosts the malware and download a specially crafted app, which can keep itself hidden from the user, and that will then collect whatever data from the phone the attacker wants and send it to them in an email or store it in an online account to access later. Software is available for both Android and iPhone devices, but for the latter the phone needs to be jailbroken, which allows the installation of unauthorized apps. With Android phones, the attacker may need to turn off a security setting for similar reasons.

The threat from this software, though, is real: Spouseware has a long history with domestic and sexual violence, and even murder. In one recent case, a man allegedly used spyware to monitor his ex-wifes phone during divorce proceedings. And a 2014 NPR investigation found that three-fourths of 70 surveyed domestic-violence shelters came across victims whose abusers had listened in on conversations using some form of hidden app.

Companies sell this software for anywhere from $20 to a few hundred dollars, depending on how potent its capabilities are and how long the stalker wants to use it. Hundreds of thousands of people have purchased this type of software over the years, judging by a number of data breaches that included customer records.

And, it works: This reporter previously bought a piece of spyware for $170 that, among other things, tracked the phones GPS location and siphoned photos taken with the devices camera. A colleague in New York even sent a text message to the phone in Europe and triggered the devices microphone and recorded a conversation.

Many of these companies market their products directly to those wanting to spy on their beloved. In 2014, the Justice Department ordered the creator of a piece of consumer malware called StealthGenie to pay a $500,000 fine. A woman was also sentenced to three years of probation for using the software.

According to internal data belonging to one spyware company called FlexiSpy that was acquired by Motherboard, the firm researched search-engine optimization phrases such as how to catch a cheating spouse, and how to know if your husband is cheating.

These recently discovered ads on Google seem to follow that same sort of marketing strategy. On Monday, typing terms such as spy on wifes phone or spy app wife, for example, would sometimes return adverts for related products. These ads would appear prominently on the page, with some being in the first few results.

#1 Wife Android SpyLimited Time 50% Off, another recently uncovered Google ad reads.

Other adverts were less explicit in whether the software could be used to target a spouse; but in the consumer-spyware industry, that sometimes means very little. Even when a companys website says the software should only be deployed to monitor children or employeeswhich can be done legallycustomer-support reps will often undermine those statements entirely, by admitting that customers can use this on their wifes phone without permission. In a similar way, although the company linked to the first Google ad makes it very clear on its website that the software should only be used legally, the advert itself markets the product for spying on someones wife. The company behind this ad did not respond to a request for comment.

Thanks for flagging these to us. We strictly prohibit advertising of these kinds of services and have removed these ads. When we find ads that violate our policies, we take immediate action to disable the offending sources, a Google spokesperson told The Daily Beast in a statement.

These adverts violated Googles Enabling Dishonest Behavior policy, which includes products or services that enable a user to gain unauthorized access (or make unauthorized changes) to systems, devices, or property. This would also cover items such as malicious hacking services and radar-jammers, the policy continues. The Daily Beast confirmed that the previously scrutinized search terms no longer return any adverts as of Tuesday.

This response sits in stark contrast to how YouTube, which is owned by Google, handled a similar situation. When Motherboard found that networks of YouTubers were making videos advertising spyware to monitor lovers, and were taking a cut of any referred sales, YouTube reacted with a proverbial shrug, left many of the videos online, and did not provide a statement.

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iPhone X: new Apple smartphone dumps home button for all-screen design

New model with 3 November release date promises better cameras, facial recognition, animated emojis, longer battery life and wireless charging

Apple has unveiled the iPhone X, its new radically redesigned smartphone that drops the traditional home button for an all-screen design, as well as new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus models.

Apples senior vice president of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, took to the stage of the companys new Steve Jobs Theater situated within the brand new Apple Park spaceship headquarters to unveil the new iPhones.

The new $999 (999 there is dollar-to-pound parity on the new range of Apple products) iPhone X will come with the companys new iOS 11 software featuring new on-screen buttons and gestures to replace the standard physical home button, which has been a mainstay of iPhones since the lines launch in 2007, plus new animated emoji called Animoji.

The iPhone X, pronounced 10, will come in two colours, space grey and silver, and is available for pre-order on 27 October, and shipping by 3 November. A 256GB storage option will also be available for 1,149.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook said: This is the iPhone X. Its the biggest leap forward since the original iPhone.

Instead of pressing a button, users swipe up from the bottom to get to the home screen and swipe and hold to go into multitasking. To wake the device users just tap the screen or lift the iPhone, while the control centre is now accessed by swiping down from top right corner of the phone.

The iPhone X has a new OLED screen. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The front of the device features a cutout at the top of the new OLED Super Retina display housing a new True Depth camera system for the Face ID facial recognition system and for taking selfies with Apples Portrait Mode. Apple says Face ID is capable of identifying the phones owner from a 3D scan of the face in order to unlock the device, authenticate payments and input saved passwords into login screens as well as integrate into third-party apps.

Similar systems have been used by Microsoft for its Windows Hello-capable Surface computer line, but no one has yet cracked the technology on a smartphone. Apple said the system was capable of operating even when the user was wearing glasses, and only unlocks the phone when the user is actively looking at it.

The iPhone X does not include Apples Touch ID fingerprint scanner, which was introduced in 2013 under the home button with the iPhone 5S.

But Apple said that its Face ID was more secure than Touch ID by a factor of 20, capable of discerning between the users real face and photographs and even Hollywood-level replica masks using the True Depth camera system, which projects an IR dot map on to the face to map it. It even works in the dark.

The back of the iPhone X is glass. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The rest of the device is made from stainless steel and glass, harking back to the design of the iPhone 4, and mirroring that of rival Samsungs Galaxy S8 but without a curved screen. It marks a striking contrast to recent all-metal iPhone models, and remains to be seen whether it suffers from a similar level of fragility as rival glass-and-metal sandwich smartphones. Apple said the glass was the most durable ever fitted to a smartphone with metal reinforcement. The headphone jack is still gone too.

The iPhone X will have Apples latest processor, the A11 Bionic that comes with an integrated Neural Engine for face recognition and now has six cores, up from last years A10 with four cores. Apple said that the A11 had 30% faster graphics and was an up to 70% faster processor than the A10, while extending battery life by two hours over the iPhone 7 a pain point for the majority of current iPhone users.

Apple also introduced Qi wireless charging to the iPhone line for the first time, which uses a a plate within the back of the phone to accept an inductive charge from a pad or a piece of furniture with wireless charging built in. Its a feature thats been standard in Samsungs Galaxy S line of smartphones for the last three years and available with several other rivals, and removes the need to fiddle with a power cable to charge your smartphone.

The back of the iPhone X has Apples now familiar dual camera system, which debuted on 2016s iPhone 7 Plus with one wide-angle camera and one telephoto camera capable of giving the phone a two-times optical zoom, but oriented vertically rather than horizontally. Both cameras have new 12-megapixel sensors, optical image stabilisation and Apple said that it had improved its computational photography system to produce better, more detailed images.

Part of the improved system is a new version of the companys Portrait Mode, which allows users to artificially blur the background to create a shallow depth of field, similar to that created by dSLR cameras, and change the lighting effects across the subjects face. Rivals Samsung and others have also shipped similar features, with inherent flaws around fine detail such as hair. It remains to be seen whether Apples system can fix those problems.

Apple also unveiled new animated emoji characters it calls animoji, which allow users to map facial expressions on to little characters, such as a robot, fox, unicorn, or anthropomorphised poo using the iPhone Xs facial recognition system. The animoji can only be sent to other Apple users through the companys Messages app.

Ben Wood, chief of research for CCS Insight said: The iPhone X is the blueprint for the iPhones new hardware direction. An OLED display and the new design is likely to [be] standard on future iPhone models, but Apple must first tackle the challenge of obtaining sufficient supply.

A staggered introduction of OLED technology and the new design enables Apple to steadily ramp up scale in its supply chain and maximise profits. The relatively high prices of the iPhone X are a necessary and important mechanism to control demand in the near term.

iPhone 8

The iPhone 8, which will start at $699/699. Photograph: Stephen Lam/Reuters

Alongside the iPhone X, Apple also unveiled two other new smartphones, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, which are essentially updated versions of 2016s iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, which were themselves updates of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S lines from 2014 and 2015 respectively.

On the outside the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus has glass on the front and back, with a colour-matched aluminium band around the outside. Apple said that the glass on the back was the most durable glass on any smartphone, attempting to assuage fears that the new iPhone would be less durable than the iPhone 7.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus both have Apples new A11 Bionic chip, but without the Neural Engine of that fitted to the iPhone X, and come with improved screens with the companys True Tone feature and improved speakers while keeping its current form with a home button with Touch ID 2 fingerprint scanner. But they lack facial recognition and an all-screen design of the iPhone X.

Schiller said: This is the first iPhone created for AR. The cameras are individually calibrated in the factory which makes a huge difference for AR, plus AR benefits from the new A11 Bionic chip.

Apple also added wireless Qi charging like the iPhone X and the latest Bluetooth 5.0 standard, which is expected to become widely used in the next year for headphones and other peripherals.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will come in three colours and start at $699/699 and $799/799 respectively with 64GB of storage, available for pre-order from 15 September and shipping by 22 September. A 256GB storage option will also available.

Wood said: The iPhone X and iPhone 8 models are very strong additions to Apples portfolio that address increasing competition from Samsung and others. Rivals will be watching how quickly Apple can meet demand for the iPhone X and begin to build margins on a new design with new components.

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Sharing Your Netflix Password Could Soon Be Illegal

There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind of people who pay for Netflix, and the kind of people who are still using their ex’s account to avoid it.

Sadly, I’m in the paying group. But for those of you still lucky enough to be getting a free ride on someone else’s account (mum, I’m looking at you), doing so could soon become illegal. So you should probably start saving your pennies to start coughing up the 7 a month or whatever it is.

Three judges from the US court of appeals (AKA party poopers) have issued a ruling that sharing passwords now constitutes acriminal act under the Computer Fraud And Abuse Act (CFAA).

Basically, no passwords at all should be shared – because the person caught using it could then be considereda hacker, as giving permission doesnt legallt count as actually giving permission…. or something.

The company behind the account such as Netflix has to authorise it, according to these judges.

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but surely the fact you can have different profiles inside one account is Netflix giving permission?

Jules AKA Julia, my mother who decided to help herself to my Netflix, and give herself a weird nickname. Thanks ma!

This allstarted with acase where a guy called David Nosal, a former employee of recruitment firm Korn/Ferry, used a colleagues login details to access a work computer, despite having had his own accountrevoked. He was charged with hacking.

One judge on the case did note though that using this to set a precedent threatens to criminalize all sorts of innocuous conduct engaged in daily by ordinary citizens, according to the Guardian.

An HBO exec has made a statementsaying that accountsharing has no impact on the business and is even a terrific marketing vehicle for the next generation of viewers.

Well if you say so.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments

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