A perverted hacker who spied upon more than 200 women via their webcams and microphones, after infecting their computers with malware, was arrested earlier this year by the FBI after a two year investigation.
The 31-year-old man broke into victims' personal computers, and stole personal information. Threatening to share the private information with their parents and email contacts, the man pressured the young women (some of them still young teenagers) into providing him with risque pictures and videos.
The FBI's Los Angeles cyber division, who investigated the case, described the case as a chilling example of "sextortion".
According to a report on the FBI's website, the attacks were spread by the hacker who posed as a young woman on a social networking website:
In several instances, the hacker posed online as a young woman’s friend or sister and sent messages with attachments asking if the victim wanted to see a scary video. Because the messages appeared to be from a trusted source, the victims usually didn’t think twice about opening the attachment. When they did, the virus secretly installed itself, and the hacker had total control over their computers - including all files and folders, webcams, and microphones.
We' ve seen many other cases in the past where innocent users' webcams have been remotely controlled by hackers for sexual kicks.
In early 2005, for instance, Spanish authorities fined a student who took surreptitious movies of unsuspecting users, and arrested a 37-year-old man who spied on victims via a webcam while stealing banking information.
The following year, Adrian Ringland, from the British town of Ilkeston, Derbyshire, was sentenced to jail for ten years after admitting posing as a minor on internet chatrooms and using spyware to take explicit photographs via children's webcams. And in 2008, a 27-year-old Canadian man was charged with using spyware to take over the webcams of women as young as 14 and coercing them into posing naked for him.
Pretty disgusting stuff I'm sure you'll agree, and you can imagine how all the victims in these case must feel utterly violated by what happened to them.
But, in this latest investigation, there is a way for you to help. The FBI are asking for assistance in finding other victims of the sextortionist.
How can you help?
The hacker in the latest webcam-spying case used a variety of screen names and email addresses, which are listed below. The FBI asks that if you have information regarding the case (there may be other victims) to contact your nearest FBI office or submit a tip to them online.
There are some more details of this case on Gary Warner's Cybercrime & Doing Time blog.
Young people's PCs must be properly protected with the latest anti-virus software, security patches and firewalls. It is also essential that young people are taught how to behave safely online, to avoid being exploited by sick-minded hackers.
Thanks for helping, and stay safe online.
What have you taught your children about staying safe online? How easy has it been to take the issues of cyber-security seriously? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.