Five employees of a Hanoi-based company who were charged with developing and selling a smartphone spy app during their trial on May 7. Photo: T.T
A court in Hanoi on Thursday sentenced a man to two years in prison for selling an illegal spy app which was found to have compromised over 14,100 smartphones.
Nguyen Viet Hung, 41, former vice director of Viet Hong Technology Company, was found guilty of illegally publishing/using data stored on computers, Internet and telecommunication networks, according to the ruling of the Hanoi People's Court.
Six of his subordinates, including Le Thanh Lam, 32, who developed the Ptracker app, received suspended sentences ranging between 12-20 months for similar charges.
According to an indictment read to the court, Viet Hong was licensed for selling positioning devices that allowed their corporate customers to track the positions of their employees as well as their vehicles.
However, in June 2013, Hung hired Lam to write a spy app for Android smartphones. He also hired the other five employees to assist Lam and advertise and sell the app.
Prosecutors said once installed on smarphones, Ptracker could access their messages, contacts, and voice messages. It also allowed users to track and even remotely control target phones, so they could record calls or turn the phones into listening devices.
The app did not show up on the phone's screen and couldn't be uninstalled except when the phone was reformatted. An advanced version of Ptracker would never be removed, even after formatting, the court heard.
Customers had to sign up for paid accounts that allowed them to access their target phones' stolen data stored on the company's servers.
The company's staff could access the information as well.
Between September 2013 and May 2014, 14,140 smartphones had been compromised and Hung and his subordinates earned VND1 billion ($46,000) from the spy app.
Investigators said most stolen data pertained to personal affairs, not national security.
The director of the Hanoi-based firm, Dang Hong Dang, was not charged as he neither engaged in the software business nor received profits from it, investigators found.