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Home >Opinion >IPL spotfixing: How Delhi police intercepted messages on WhatsApp, BBM

There’s nothing totally secure about a conversation on the Internet, though one may like to believe so. Media reports about the Delhi police having 70 phones under surveillance during their probe into spot fixing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and tracking messaging software like WhatsApp and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) are a case in point.

While the government can prevail on Internet services providers or ISPs to share crucial online information, regardless of whether they are on encrypted BlackBerry servers or on instant messengers like GTalk and WhatsApp, there are numerous text messaging monitoring apps, too, that can easily spy on cell phones.

In the case of BlackBerry, you can purchase a BlackBerry messenger interceptor and install it on the phone you intend monitoring. The information will be stored on the software’s website and to view it, you simply have to log onto the website with your unique username and password after which, you can sort, filter and search the records.

A BBM spy app, for instance, when installed in a smartphone, captures each and every message sent through bbm. The spy app hides in the background, camouflaged from the user’s eye. As the BBM chat is being logged, it is then sent across the Internet to the program’s website and to your account. To view the information, you would have to access your account with your security codes. The scariest part is the software records the chats even if the user deletes them.

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Of course, a parent can “legitimately" get the spy app installed in a minor’s smartphone but uscrupulous companies, government officials and bureaucrats could do the same, as they often do across the world.

Data sniffing in Wi-Fi networks is not a new phenomenon. A sniffer is a program that captures, monitors and analyzes network traffic—legitimately or illegitimately. A network router with a sniffer is capable of reading the data in the packet as well as the source and destination addresses. And what, theoretically, can stop anyone from having such apps masquerade as legitimate anti-virus software?

The Mobistealth cell phone spyware, a paid solution, can monitor iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Nokia and Windows Mobile phones. The company, of course, sells it with a positive tone. “If you are an investigator looking to uncover the truth or a concerned parent worried about cell phone activities of your children then MobiStealth cell phone monitoring software is ideal for you."

Whatsapp, on its website, says that “even though data sent through our app is encrypted, remember that if your phone or your friend’s phone is being used by someone else, it may be possible for them to read your WhatsApp messages. Please be aware of who has physical access to your phone."

A WhatsApp official said “the interception (referring to media reports) claim is unverified and unconfirmed. Until we are presented with evidence and data, we will treat the information as false."

Thankfully, there are signs that indicate if you have a spy software installed in your phone. The first is if your battery starts draining faster than it usually does. Of course, your battery could be faulty too. Second, your data charges could shoot up unless, of course, you are on an unlimited plan and don’t notice it. Third, many phones have an indicator of some type (akin to a LED flashing) when text message come in. If the blinking is on even if there are no messages, then something is wrong. Finally, caveat utilitor is the best maxim.

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