Police say an initial probe reveals that spyware was mostly used by jealous wives, husbands and lovers.
Hanoi police announced Tuesday the arrest of the Viet Hong Technology Company's deputy director and two employees for selling software that allowed clients to spy on more than 14,000 mobile phones.
Deputy Director Nguyen Viet Hung allegedly ordered four IT technicians to write the Ptracker software and will be investigated on charges of “illegally giving and receiving information culled from computer, internet and telecommunication networks,” police told the press on July 1.
The company’s chief IT technician Le Thanh Lam and customer services employee Tran Minh Ngoc have also been arrested pending an investigation into the same charge. Pregnant saleswoman Nguyen Thi Nga was placed under house arrest, police said.
Colonel Duong Van Giap, head of Hanoi police’s crime department says at a press briefing on July 1, 2014. Photo credit: VnExpress
“We have tried listening to 40 eavesdropped calls and found most of them pertain to personal affairs, not national security,” said Colonel Duong Van Giap, head of Hanoi police’s crime department.
Giap also said their early investigation showed that most of Viet Hong’s customers were the husbands, wives and lovers of targeted mobile phone users.
Last month, police discovered that Viet Hong Technology Company had sold its mobile phone-monitoring software to more than 14,000 people since last September and earned around VND900 million (US$42,200) from the illegal activity.
For VND400,000 ($19) per month, Viet Hong's customers could install the Ptracker software onto smartphones to listen in on calls, monitor SMS messages, track the owners' movements and use the phone to listen in on their daily lives.
The stolen information was archived on Viet Hong’s servers and could be accessed by signing up for a paid account.
According to police, the Ptracker software had been installed on 14,140 mobile phones since last September. Among them, 600 cell phones were still being monitored when police busted the Viet Hong company on May 13.
Data from 7,447 phone users was discovered on the company’s servers during the inspection.
The rest had been deleted, police said.
Tran Minh Hue, deputy inspector chief of Hanoi’s Department of Information and Communications, told the press conference that mobile phone operators were not responsible for the case as the Ptracker software was installed on phones, not on SIM cards.
Vietnamese law prohibits the creation and installation of malicious software for the purposes of collecting personal information or taking control of digital devices.