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Stalkers turning to high-tech tools to track, monitor their victims

Stalkers are increasingly turning to high-tech tools to track and monitor their victims.

They are using mobile apps and digital surveillance software to track their victims, remotely monitoring texts, emails and calls and turning on a device's camera or microphone from a distance. Not only can abusers find out where their victims are, they can use spyware - much of it illegal in the United States - to hack into a computer to read emails and texts, hear voicemails and even eavesdrop on phone calls.

Victims of domestic violence appear to be among those most at risk.

In survey of more than 70 shelters across the United States, NPR found that 85 percent of them said they were working directly with victims whose abusers tracked them using GPS. Seventy-five percent were working with victims whose abusers eavesdropped on their conversation remotely, using hidden mobile apps. And nearly half of shelters have polices banning the use of Facebook on their premises for fears stalkers could use it to pinpoint their location.

But how does a stalker manage to install this software?

CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman, appearing on "CBS This Morning," said abusers will use everything from children to a cable repairman to do the job. Stalkers will also just hack into a system to install it.

"If the stalker or aggressor or the person who wants to do a bad thing can get a hold of that phone or computer for a very, very short time, this software can be installed," Klieman said. "They do it in very devious ways."

Though the trend is relatively new, the federal government has started cracking down on those making and promoting this kind of spyware. It got its first conviction this year.

In November, Hammad Akbar, a 31-year-old Pakistani, plead guilty to and was fined $5000,000 for advertising and selling what was called StealthGenie, a spyware application that allowed for remote monitoring of calls, texts, videos and other mobile phone communications.

The court also issued a temporary restraining order authorizing the FBI to temporarily disable the website hosting StealthGenie. The website remains offline.

"Spyware is an electronic eavesdropping tool that secretly and illegally invades individual privacy," Assistant Attorney General Caldwell said at the time of the guilty plea. "Make no mistake: selling spyware is a federal crime, and the Criminal Division will make a federal case out if it."

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