On last week's episode of The Real Housewives of Dallas, when it was said that LeeAnne Locken threatened to clone Brandi Redmond's phone, many of the women were left confused.
Turns out, phone cloning dates back to car phones when you could get physically close enough to a phone and intercept its signal. With modern cellphones, that has gone away, but there is still a way to clone a phone.
Aaron Zander, an IT engineer at HackerOne, explains that the kind of phone cloning referred to in this episode of RHOD is spyware on the phone.
"You can get a wide range of information about what a person is doing on their phone," he says. "That can include, and depending on how you do it and how it's set up, anywhere from I know where the phone is ... all the way up to I can see every single text message, every single photo you take, I can turn your cameras on without you knowing it, I can take a picture of you, I can see all of your emails, I can see all the apps on your phone and all of this stuff."
The topic of cloning Redmond's phone was brought up because Locken was trying to get back at Redmond for allegedly stealing her phone. Zander says it's not exactly hard to clone a phone.
"It's not easy or hard," Zander says. "It kind of depends on the scenario. If you have the password to someone's phone or you can guess the password to someone's phone, it becomes a lot easier."
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He says for simplicity's sake, cloning a phone is like installing an app or "a little bit more" on a phone. There are plenty of services that provide the software. Prices range from $40 a month to a few hundred a month.
Audiences never hear from Locken's mouth directly that she threatened to clone Redmond's phone or that she did do it. D'Andra Simmons, another housewife, however, told the rest of the women that Locken did tell her that LeeAnne asked her fiance to clone Redmond's phone. Locken's fiance, Rich Emberlin, is a former cop, and Zander says not all law enforcement would know how to clone a phone, "but with legal due process, it is something the police have done."
Cloning a phone, however, isn't really legal.
"The easy answer is it's wiretapping, so no [it's not legal]," Zander says. "Maybe. It depends what country you're in and it depends what state you're in, but my guess is it counts as wiretapping, and that's a federal crime."