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Feds charge tech CEO with making app for stalkers, domestic abusers

Atsushi Tomura, Getty Images

The Justice Department has indicted a software CEO in what the government says is the first-ever criminal case involving the advertisement and sale of a mobile device spyware app.

In its complaint, the authorities charged Hammad Akbar, chief executive of InvoCode, the company that sells the StealthGenie app, with conspiracy, the sale of a surreptitious interception device, advertisement of a known interception device and advertising a device as a surreptitious interception device.

The business plan for the product focused on "the spousal cheat" market, which was expected to account for 65 percent of StealthGenie buyers, according to the government. If so, the people who invented StealthGenie offered the perfect app: the software is said to be undetectable and can secretly intercepts all transmissions once installed on a phone.

Akbar was arrested over the weekend in Los Angeles.

The government said that customers could review any intercepted communications on an online portal, located at subdomain cp.stealthgenie.com. A federal judge has since issued a temporary restraining order authorizing the FBI to temporarily disable the website hosting app.

"Selling spyware is not just reprehensible, it's a crime," Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell of the Justice Department's Criminal Division said in a statement. "Apps like StealthGenie are expressly designed for use by stalkers and domestic abusers who want to know every detail of a victim's personal life--all without the victim's knowledge."

This article originally appeared on CNET.

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    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.