Security

Hacked phone spyware shuts down… again

Comment

spyware illustrated; blank smartphone screen over a pink background of multiple eyes
Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

A short-lived spyware operation called Oospy, which emerged earlier this year after its predecessor Spyhide was hacked, is no longer operational and has shut down.

Oospy appeared online in late July as a rebrand of a phone monitoring app called Spyhide, which was facilitating the surveillance of tens of thousands of Android device owners around the world. Spyhide shut down after a breach exposed the operation and its administrators who were profiting from it.

Although Spyhide’s website disappeared from the internet after the hack burned the operation, the spyware’s back-end server stayed online and was still communicating with the tens of thousands of phones it was monitoring since the server was hosted on an entirely different domain. That allowed the administrators to rebrand Spyhide to Oospy without affecting the spyware operation itself.

That back-end server, which stored the victim’s stolen phone data from thousands of Android devices around the world, was taken offline Thursday by the web host Hetzner, which said the service violated its terms of service.

“In addition, we have terminated the customer’s server contract in due time,” Christian Fitz, a spokesperson for Hetzner, told TechCrunch.

In their time online, Spyhide and Oospy had at least 60,000 victims across the world, including thousands of victims in the United States. These stalkerware (also known as spouseware) apps are planted on a victim’s phone, often by someone with knowledge of their passcode. Once planted, these apps continually steal a victim’s contacts, messages, photos, call logs and recordings, and granular location history.

Following the Spyhide hack, TechCrunch identified two of the administrators behind Spyhide and Oospy. One of the administrators, Mohammad (also goes by Mojtaba) Arasteh, confirmed to TechCrunch that he worked on the project “several years ago as a programmer,” but denied involvement with Oospy.

But a mistake on Oospy’s checkout page, which used PayPal to process customer payments, exposed the name of the PayPal account holder, who shares the same family name as Arasteh.

It’s not uncommon for spyware operations to rely on payment services like PayPal to handle customer payments, despite PayPal’s policies broadly prohibiting customers from using its service to buy or sell software that facilitate illegal activity, like spyware. PayPal spokesperson Caitlin Girouard did not comment on the accounts when reached by TechCrunch. Oospy stopped accepting PayPal for payments a short time later, though it’s not known if PayPal took action against the account.

Arasteh did not comment on the PayPal account when contacted by TechCrunch. Soon after contacting Arasteh, Oospy’s website went offline altogether.

The shutdown of the spyware’s back-end server marks the end of Spyhide and Oospy’s ability to operate, for now.

Oospy and Spyhide are the latest phone surveillance operations to drop off the internet in recent months. Polish-made stalkerware LetMeSpy shut down after an earlier data breach in June. And last year, one of the largest known Android spyware apps, SpyTrac, disappeared following a TechCrunch investigation linked the spyware operation to Support King, which was banned from the surveillance industry by the FTC following an earlier data breach.

Spyhide stalkerware is spying on tens of thousands of phones

More TechCrunch

SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender Solo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient, and —…

Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is not just about groundbreaking innovations, insightful panels, and visionary speakers — it’s also about listening to YOU, the audience, and what you feel is top of…

Disrupt Audience Choice vote closes Friday

Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google launches a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

OpenAI is removing one of the voices used by ChatGPT after users found that it sounded similar to Scarlett Johansson, the company announced on Monday. The voice, called Sky, is…

OpenAI to remove ChatGPT’s Scarlett Johansson-like voice

Consumer demand for the latest AI technology is heating up. The launch of OpenAI’s latest flagship model, GPT-4o, has now driven the company’s biggest-ever spike in revenue on mobile, despite…

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

1 day ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

3 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024