Google engineer Morgan Marquis-Boire and Ph.D. computer science student Bill Marczak introduced New York Times readers today to FinSpy, one of the scariest spyware packages you’ve probably never heard of. Mr. Marquis-Boire and Mr. Marczak have been on FinSpy’s trail, mapping all its nasty flavors, since earlier this year. The software suite is available to law enforcement for legitimate investigative use, but the researchers have found it is also being used by oppressive governments to track the communications, activities and personal connections of political dissidents.
In a report linked by the Times, Mr. Marquis-Boire and Mr. Marczak detail how they first learned of the spyware as a Trojan payload attached to emails sent to Bahraini human rights activists, then began peeling apart its other, much creepier uses–tracking everything a target does with a smart phone. Pretty much any smart phone. The researchers’ list of what FinSpy Mobile can do is chilling: