JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Detective Ernest Ward with the Jonesboro Police Department said cellular phones are infected with spyware and malware and they don't even know about it. According to Ward, a simple search on Google revealed multiple sites claiming to have software users can download to keep track of relatives and friends. Many programs claim to be able to find text messages, pictures and call logs. Ward told Region 8 News he believes most of these programs are used for practical purposes.
"I could see it with parents placing this on their kid's phones. I can see it being used for adults with Alzheimer's," said Ward. "Some employer, employee situations, I could see that."
"I could see it where a person could possibly, like on a smart phone, a smart phone is a computer. I could see spyware being sent possibly to a smart phone," said Ward.
Ward said many spyware programs are capable of replicating themselves deep in a person's phone. The spyware or malware is difficult to detect to the untrained eye.
"It may have to be sent through different parts and once it's installed on the computer, the person who sent it could possibly listen in on phone calls," said Ward. "I have seen software that was being advertised that you could install for instance, on your child's phone and when you're child gets a phone call, you would be able to see and actually listen in on that phone call."
Ward said handheld cellular devices are computers. Smart phones have the same capabilities as laptop computers and desktops.
"It comes back to the thing on the e-mails. You know, don't open e-mails that you're not expecting, that you don't know the person who sent it," said Ward. "There are viruses. There are spyware that's being sent out constantly. Somebody is going to get it on their computer today. If they get it on their computer, is there a chance they're going to get it on their phone? Sure."
Ward said some viruses and spyware can turn on a cell phone's camera without the owner knowing about it. He said some cases could warrant invasion of privacy.
"With everything good comes something bad, always," said Ward. "I have seen the viruses and the spyware in the software that's out there that will turn on your webcams on your computer. If it can do that, if it doesn't do that already then it's just a matter of time before someone does it for the phones."