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TOP 5 spyware scandals

3 December 2014

1. A built-in keylogger in Windows 10.

1-windowsMicrosoft has confirmed that Windows 10 Developer Preview contains an integrated keylogger that captures everything that users type on their keyboards and sends these logs to the corporation.

Moreover, even voice commands and dictation results are logged in the same way.

The company explained that the collection of this information helps improve the operating system’s word autocompletion feature and the build-in spellchecker.

Particular concerns among some users were raised by the fact that the license agreement (terms and conditions of the Insider Program) states that the user agrees with the disclosure of keyboard logs both to Microsoft and undefined third parties.

2. Keyloggers found in new Samsung laptops.

2-samsungResearchers have found a software keylogger installed on Samsung laptops purchased online.

The program discreetly collected information about key presses, made screenshots and sent them to an unidentified recipient.

An anonymous consultant explained that the purpose of installing this spyware was the collection of data for improving future device control features.

Although Samsung has initiated a lengthy internal investigation, it has not officially admitted its role in this scandal and voiced an assumption that the programs had been installed by store employees.

3. A scandal around the Carrier IQ app installed on 140 million phones.

3-phoneAn app called Carrier IQ was found on a huge number of devices from all major manufacturers, from Apple and Google to Nokia and HTC.

Its official purpose was the collection of phone parameters and general usage details. However, the researchers have found out that the program is also capable of accessing multiple types of users’ data, such as the lists of visited websites and sent text messages.

Apple completely removed the application only in the latest version of iOS. Other manufacturers explained the presence of the program on their devices by a mistake made by wireless service providers during phone localization.

4. Spying computers available for purchase by installments.

Several chains of stores were offering an installment plan for computers with a program called “PC Rental Agent” included in the standard software bundle.

The program was initially intended for monitoring computers sold by installments – that is, computers that still belonged to the stores.
However, store employees did not inform customers about the purpose of these programs. They could be used for remotely installing any other software on customers’ systems.

Such software could include tools capable of making screenshots, activating the webcam, recording key presses or locating the system using the nearest Wi-Fi networks.

The investigation revealed multiple cases of abusive behavior by store employees. Some of them were spying on customers for fun, and some of them continued to do so even after the last installment was paid.

The store owners were forced to pay ample compensations to affected customers.

5. Skype – an illusion of privacy.

5-skypeSkype, a popular communications program for text, audio and video chats, has been in the center of spy scandals surprisingly often.

Even before the company was acquired by Microsoft, it was rumored to be a part of “Project Chess”, a secret initiative aimed at making users’ data available to secret agencies.

After Edward Snowden’s revelatory publications, Skype appeared on the list of companies cooperating with PRISM, a monitoring system created by the U.S. National Security Agency.

This information, however, remained a mystery. Which is probably the way it’s supposed to be in spy stories.


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Updating Refog programs to version 8

7 February 2014

We are glad to announce that we have finished working on version 8 of Refog Personal Monitor and Refog Employee Monitor.

Personal Monitor Personal Monitor

The new versions of the programs can be downloaded from corresponding pages.

The following new features were added:

  • Periodical capturing of images from an integrated or external webcam connected to the computer.
  • Recording of all Skype calls.
  • Full support of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.
  • In Employee Monitor, we added a possibility to install agents on the network using MSI packages.

Below is detailed information on new features, configuration and licensing.  More »

Russian intelligence agencies acquire Skype intercept

9 July 2013

After the Microsoft company acquired the Skype company in 2011, the client communication program received an interesting modification. Microsoft specialists gave themselves the ability to transfer any user to a special mode, in which the transmission data encryption keys are generated on the company server instead of on the client device.

This makes it possible for intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on users’ conversations, to read their Skype chat transcripts, and even to determine their locations.

Microsoft does not hide the fact that these capabiities are available to the world’s intelligence agencies, including Russia’s. More importantly, Russian intelligence agencies do not always obtain their access with the permission of the courts, but sometimes “by routine request”.

It recently became known that in the Chinese version of Skype there actually is a separate mechanism for tracking the activities of a subscriber. Built into their localized distribution package is a call logger that records everything entered from the keyboard. This module searches text for “objectionable” words and forwards what is detected to local intelligence agencies.

Official representatives of the MVD and FSB traditionally refrain from commenting.

Very soon, intercept of Skype communications will be accessible in a program for home use, Refog Personal Monitor. Download the fully functional trial version and try it free for three days.

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Legal Activists Raise Concerns About Skype

12 April 2013

A large group of activists comprised of organizations, journalists, lawyers and regular Internet users issued an open letter to Skype’s current owner, Microsoft. This letter focused on the confidentiality of Skype communications. They believe that the service’s confidentiality policy is somewhat fuzzy and the description of possible interactions with third parties and law enforcement agencies is insufficient.

Microsoft’s agreement with China’s TOM Оnline on the creation of a custom version of Skype for Chinese users was especially criticized. This version had a special filter that blocked specific messages. And since this version was identical to the regular one, it meant that any Skype user could eventually be monitored.

Activists reckon that the main reason for such changes in Skype policies is the recent acquisition of the company by Microsoft. That is why it is now held responsible for letting the public know about the ways the service works with confidential data and interacts with law enforcement agencies.

Microsoft employees confirmed the receipt of the letter and promised to issue an official response to these questions.