The makers of two phone monitoring services appear to have shut down after their owners agreed to resolve state charges that they illegally promoted spyware developed by their companies.
PhoneSpector and Highster are consumer-grade phone monitoring applications that facilitate covert surveillance of personal smartphones. Often referred to as tracking software (or spousal software), these apps are typically placed on an individual’s phone by a spouse or domestic partner, and often know the following: These apps are designed to be hidden on the home screen, making them difficult to Find and delete, while continuously uploading your phone’s messages, photos and real-time location data to a dashboard that can be viewed by abusers.
In February 2023, Patrick Hinchy’s consortium of New York and Florida technology companies developed PhoneSpector and Highster, Agree to pay $410,000 fine to settle charges Hinch’s company advertised and “actively promoted” spyware that allowed covert phone surveillance of individuals living in New York state.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James Said at that time Hinchy’s company used blog posts to explicitly encourage potential customers to use spyware to monitor their spouses’ devices without their knowledge. As part of the deal, Hinchy’s company agreed to modify the app to alert device owners that their phones were being monitored.
After the settlement, both PhoneSpector and Highster were taken offline.
PhoneSpector’s website stopped loading in the weeks following the settlement. Its domain now redirects to the Indonesian lottery website. After a few months, Highster’s website stopped loading.
The domains, servers and backend infrastructure known to be used by PhoneSpector and Highster are also no longer online.
TechCrunch called phone numbers associated with PhoneSpector and Highster customer service, but an automated message said the numbers were disconnected. Office space in Port Jefferson Village, New York, where Hinch’s company is registered, is currently occupied by a construction company.
Nearly all of Hinch’s companies registered in New York and Florida are still active, but the companies haven’t filed with the states in several years and are designated as “overdue” for renewal, according to public records searched by TechCrunch. Companies are typically required to file documents every two years or face dissolution by state authorities.
Hinchy did not respond to TechCrunch’s repeated requests for comment. Hinchy, which represents Michael Weinstein as part of the settlement, deferred comment to the New York Attorney General’s Office.
Delaney Kempner, communications director for the New York Attorney General’s Office, did not respond to TechCrunch’s questions via email about the settlement, including whether Hinchy’s company paid the $410,000 fine as agreed. Kempner would not grant TechCrunch’s records request. In response to specific questions about the case, Kempner told TechCrunch via email that recent unspecified documents will answer some of our questions. “Hope you know how to find them :)” Kempner said.
PhoneSpector and Highster are the latest tracking software apps to be taken offline due to regulatory action in recent years.
In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission make accusations Targeting mobile phone monitoring app maker Retina-X, accusing the company of failing to ensure its apps were used for legitimate, consensual purposes and failing to adequately protect unsuspecting device owners after experiencing multiple data breaches Sensitive mobile phone data stolen from the mobile phone. -X eventually closed.
one year later, FTC bans tracking software maker SpyFone And surveillance industry CEO Scott Zuckerman also accused the company of failing to protect data secretly collected from unsuspecting victims’ phones. A TechCrunch investigation later discovered Zuckerman Returns with new tracking software app called SpyTracThe site went down shortly after TechCrunch contacted Zuckerman for comment.