Users of iPhones risk being spied upon after spyware that can remotely switch on the phone's microphone in order to intercept calls and listen to other conversations was discovered early this year. F-Secure, a Finnish firm that specialises in guarding against computer threats, said spyware called flexiSPY that targeted smartphones was first discovered in 2006. A new version that targets iPhones began circulating early this year. Chia Wing-fei, an F-Secure security response manager, said victims would find it almost impossible to discover they were being attacked by the spyware. 'The spyware can remotely switch on the microphone of your smartphone and listen in to what you are doing,' Mr Chia said. Apart from intercepting calls and listening in to the surroundings, and even to the music the phone user was listening to, the spyware could also track the target phone's location by GPS and read its text messages and emails. The spyware could be installed on a smartphone in about a minute, Mr Chia said. It could be installed by inserting a memory card containing the program or it could be sent to the phone via an email or text message. An F-Secure survey conducted in December found that Hong Kong mobile phone users' awareness of security vulnerabilities was very low, with 66 per cent of people saying they did not have security software installed on their mobile phone. Seventeen per cent of people declined to express any opinion when asked if their mobile phones were secure. F-Secure regional sales director Sam Lee said: 'Many people leave their mobile phones in public areas like on desks in an office, or in a restaurant or bar.' A lot of business people in the city had not believed spyware was a threat until they had been shown it worked, Mr Lee said. But F-Secure had noticed that customer inquiries related to spyware had increased in the past year. Roy Ko Wai-tak, the manager of Hong Kong's Computer Emergency Response Team Co-operation Centre, said he was aware that such spyware could be found on the internet. 'The best way of protecting yourself is to keep your smartphone properly to avoid any physical access by others,' Mr Ko said. Government officials - including Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, an iPhone user - who use mobile computing devices are prohibited from storing and transmitting classified information on public networks and are required to install anti-spyware and intrusion-detection software supported by the device. A police officer at the commercial crime bureau's technology division said police had not been notified of any mobile spyware cases. The use of mobile spyware could violate privacy laws and constitute unlawful access to a computer.