Who's listening? Smartphones at an expo in Singapore. (File photo/Xinhua)
Wiretapping mobile phone conversations using commonly available software is widespread in China and enjoys a considerable market, the state-run China News Service reported on its website.
X-Turncoat, an eavesdropping application banned by the authorities in 2006, had been installed on at least 1 million mobile phones in the last six years, reported CNS.
The application is disguised as a three-way conference-call program, but actually allows hackers to listen in on phone calls secretly and view the user's call history and contacts. X-Turncoat is popular in China, despite the crackdown by the authorities, because it is cheap and the information stolen by hackers can be sold for a profit.
Netqin, an internet security company, said 43% of all malicious spy applications found in the first half of this year could track the locations of users through GPS. Such software is especially popular in Russia and the Middle East but has not been seen in China.
Many applications are sold disguised as computer monitoring software to unwitting parents, ostensibly to help them keep an eye on their children's internet use. Yet once they are downloaded, they allow hackers to access the buyers' computers.
Information stolen by hackers through such spy applications is then sold to con artists, who cheat victims out of their money over the phone; and advertising agencies which send out spam, according to Netqin.
China News Service cited a March 15 report by state broadcaster CCTV that hackers typically charge 1,000 yuan (US$157) to supply the private information of 1,000 persons.