Can 'Legit' Spyware Harm You?

"[These companies] know perfectly well that 99.9 percent of customers use it for illegitimate reasons. … It puts hacking in the hands of anybody," Graham said. "You can actually buy a lot of products that will hold your hand through the process of hacking."

SpectorSoft, the company that manufactures the software found in the couple's apartment, strongly disagrees with Graham.

According to the company's president, Doug Fowler, SpectorSoft markets to concerned parents and to businesses, not hackers.

"SpectorSoft has never marketed its software as a way to steal from people, to assume another's identity," Fowler wrote in an e-mail. "Any piece of software has the potential to be abused."

Robert Siciliano, the CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com and an identity theft security expert, also takes issue with Graham's attitude, calling products like Spector "a legitimate consumer product."

"There are credible, legitimate reasons for spyware programs," Siciliano told ABC News, citing bosses who don't want employees to goof off, spouses suspicious of affairs and parents worried about their children's online activities.

Instead of spyware manufacturers, Siciliano holds computer users responsible for protecting their information.

"You could also use a gun for hunting or target practice or you could use it to kill people," he said. "It's not the fault of the company who's creating the product if people use it for nefarious purposes."

It's up the consumer to protect themselves with anti-virus software and be aware of transmitting sensitive information over public computers in libraries, hotel business centers and coffee shops.

"If you're going to use these tools of technology you've got to understand the risks associated with them," he said. "Spyware is not the root of the problem. It's people's understanding of the technology, the risks they face and their ability to protect themselves."

The latest study by the Federal Trade Commission indicates that, in 2005, 8.3 million Americans were victims of identity theft. According to the FTC, most victims don't know how their identities were stolen, online or elsewhere.

For Kirsch and Anderton's accusers, only time will tell exactly what happened and how (or whether) Spector was used.

Sweeney estimated that it will take several weeks to cull through all the electronic data discovered, to determine "what's illegitimate on it and what's legitimate on it."

"We're going to have to just surf through it and find out what we've got," he said.

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