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Developer Fined $410,000 for Selling Spyware Apps


February 06, 2023

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Developer Fined $410,000 for Selling Spyware Apps

The state of New York has issued a hefty fine to a software developer for illegally promoting spyware that let individuals monitor another person’s device without their knowledge, violating several state and federal laws.

As per the announcement, the software products sold by a certain Patrick Hinchy through 16 separate companies “allowed users to secretly monitor activity on another device, including call logs, text messages, photos and videos, location, Gmail activity, WhatsApp and Skype messages, social media activity, and browsing history.”

A years-long investigation

Spyware, sometimes referred to as stalkerware, is any type of monitoring software used for cyberstalking. In the case of Hinchy’s apps, the key selling point was – as one could easily guess – to enable people to find out if their life partner was cheating on them.

A years-long investigation found that the ads promoting the apps led customers to believe that using the products was legal – when, in fact, installing and using stalkerware to monitor another adult’s mobile device without their consent violates numerous state and federal laws.

Some of the apps let a user remotely activate the camera or microphone of the target device to spy or eavesdrop on the device’s owner.

Assisted hacking

Moreover, installation of the spyware required the client to physically hold the device and jailbreak it (in the case of Apple iPhones), or enable root access (in the case of Android phones).

According to court documents shared by the Attorney General’s office, “In some cases, Respondents’ customer support staff even assisted Customers withhacking into accounts of their intimate partners in order to activate a Spyware Product.”

In one instance, support staff from one company selling the products offered guidance to try and take over their partner’s iCloud account.

“Respondents’ customer support also advised the Customer not to use a feature that would cause an email to be sent to her husband,” court documents say.

By openly promoting these practices without consent of the device owner and, moreover, helping customers spy on people, Patrick Hinchy and his companies broke several state and federal laws and was fined $410,000 by the state of New York.

“Snooping on a partner and tracking their cell phone without their knowledge isn’t just a sign of an unhealthy relationship, it is against the law,” said Attorney General James. “These apps and products put New Yorkers at risk of stalking and domestic abuse, and were aggressively promoted by Patrick Hinchy through 16 different companies. Today’s agreement will block these companies from allowing New Yorkers to be monitored without their awareness, and will continue our ongoing fight to protect New Yorkers’ rights, safety, and privacy.”

Interestingly, Hinchy’s companies are still allowed to operate as long as they modify the apps to warn the owner of the device being monitored of the types of information collected by the app – completely voiding a business model based on spying on unsuspecting victims.

The agreement between the state of New York and Hinchy further requires the developer to make accurate disclosures regarding endorsements, rooting and jailbreaking requirements, refund policies, and data security.

Most spyware victims have no idea that someone is keeping tabs on their life. Bitdefender Mobile Security warns you if you are compromised by detecting the presence of spyware/stalkerware on your device, enabling you to take protective measures.




Filip has 15 years of experience in technology journalism. In recent years, he has turned his focus to cybersecurity in his role as Information Security Analyst at Bitdefender.

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