Hackers Target Spyware App, Restoring Users’ Privacy

WebDetetive was the target of the hackers' latest action

These hackers focused on restoring privacy.
Getty Images

It all started with an app called WebDetetive. No, that’s not an unintentional typo; “detetive” is the Portuguese word for “detective,” and the app in question is used by third parties to keep track of the phones on which it’s installed. You might that think that this sounds a little ethically dubious, and you’d be right — and that’s before we get to the full-on spyware component of the app in question.

Or at least it was ethically dubious. As TechCrunch reports, the app — which was installed on over 75,000 phones in Brazil — has now been thoroughly defanged. That’s the work of a group of what Engadget accurately described as “benevolent hackers,” who took issue with the app’s violation of privacy and acted accordingly.

The hackers shared information about their actions with TechCrunch, and TechCrunch’s Zack Whittaker went on to write a concise summary of what they did and why they did it. The hackers made their way into WebDetetive’s database, downloaded records of the affected accounts and then deleted the connection between phones with the app and the spyware database that had been monitoring them.

As the hackers told TechCrunch, there’s a simple reason for this: “Because #fuckstalkerware”

Hackers Won a Tesla After Successfully Breaking a Tesla
Kind of the opposite of “you break it, you buy it”

This isn’t the only spyware app that unidentified hackers have targeted this year. Earlier this summer, a group of hackers set their sights on LetMeSpy, an app found on tens of thousands of phones in Poland. In the case of LetMeSpy, the hackers involved also made their findings publicly available online.

As TechCrunch pointed out in their article on the hack, WebDetetive is designed to cloak its presence on a given phone. Instead of appearing as itself, its icon shows up as an innocuous-looking wifi-themed app, making it harder for users to realize that they have it loaded on their phones. It’s not hard to see the potential for abuse with apps like this — nor is it difficult to see why some activists might want them taken out of the picture altogether.

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