Stalkerware apps PhoneSpector and Highster seem to be no longer operational

Vaf Blog



Two phone surveillance services, PhoneSpector and Highster, have appeared to have stopped operating after the owner settled accusations of illegally promoting spyware developed by his companies. These consumer-grade phone monitoring apps facilitated the covert surveillance of a person’s smartphone, commonly referred to as stalkerware. These apps would be planted on a person’s phone, often by a spouse or domestic partner, and designed to stay hidden while continuously uploading the phone’s messages, photos, and real-time location data to a dashboard viewable by the abuser.

In February 2023, the owner of the companies that developed PhoneSpector and Highster, Patrick Hinchy, agreed to pay $410,000 in penalties to settle accusations that his companies illegally promoted spyware that allowed for secret phone surveillance of individuals living in New York State. The companies agreed to modify the apps to alert device owners that their phones had been monitored as part of the settlement. Since then, both PhoneSpector and Highster have dropped offline, with their websites no longer loading and their related infrastructure no longer online.

Although many of Hinchy’s registered companies remain active, they have not filed paperwork with the states for several years and are designated “past due” for updates, potentially facing dissolution by state authorities. The New York Attorney General’s office did not answer questions about the settlement, including whether Hinchy’s companies paid the $410,000 penalty as agreed.

Ultimately, PhoneSpector and Highster are the latest stalkerware apps to have fallen offline following regulatory action. Other phone monitoring app makers, such as Retina-X and SpyFone, have experienced similar fates after facing legal challenges related to the use of their apps for secret surveillance. It is important to note that the use of stalkerware and related surveillance applications for secret monitoring of individuals is illegal and unethical.

The case of PhoneSpector and Highster highlights the consequences of engaging in illegal and unethical practices related to covert surveillance. The fact that these companies have ceased operations following regulatory action sends a message about the potential repercussions of engaging in such activities.

The rise and fall of stalkerware apps like PhoneSpector and Highster demonstrate the ongoing efforts by law enforcement and regulatory agencies to crack down on the use of spyware for secret surveillance. The actions taken by the FTC and other authorities against similar companies in the past, such as Retina-X and SpyFone, indicate a pattern of legal action targeting companies that develop and promote stalkerware and covert surveillance applications.

The shutting down of PhoneSpector and Highster following the settlement with the New York Attorney General’s office serves as a warning to others in the industry that illegal and unethical practices related to covert surveillance will not be tolerated. It also illustrates the potential legal and financial consequences of engaging in such activities.

Overall, the case of PhoneSpector and Highster highlights the importance of ethical and legal use of surveillance technology, and the ongoing efforts by law enforcement and regulatory agencies to hold companies accountable for illegal and unethical practices related to covert surveillance. The actions taken against these companies demonstrate the commitment to upholding privacy rights and protecting individuals from unauthorized and invasive surveillance.



Source link

Also Read

Leave a Comment