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50 arrested in smartphone spyware dragnet

Cop, judge, and parliamentarian among the suspects

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Romanian authorities have arrested 50 individuals accused of using off-the-shelf software to monitor cellphone communications of their spouses, competitors, and others, according to news reports.

The Romanian Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism also arrested Dan Nicolae Oproiu, a 30-year-old IT specialist who allegedly sold the spyware for as much as $580 over the internet. Officials claim his software was available for handsets running the iPhone, Blackberry, Symbian, and Windows Mobile operating systems, and came in Light, Pro, and Pro-X versions that offered varying levels of services.

According to Softpedia, Oproiu's customers included businessmen, doctors, and engineers, in addition to a judge, government official, police officer and former member of Parliament. They were rounded up earlier this week in simultaneous raids throughout the country. There is evidence that detective agencies and private investigators also illegally used the spyware.

The publication goes on to speculate that Oproiu was reselling FlexiSPY, a package that's long been marketed to people who want to catch cheating spouses, stop employee espionage, protect children, and bug meeting rooms. The Pro-X version allows a user to listen to calls in real-time, surreptitiously read SMS, call logs, and email, and convert the targeted phone into a remote bugging device that can secretly capture the sounds in its immediate vicinity.

More about the arrests are in garbled Google translations here and here. ®

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