'Peeping Tom' webcam blackmailer jailed for six years

Filed Under: Law & order, Malware, Privacy

Luis Mijangos. Picture credit: Nick Ut/APA man from Southern California who hacked into over 100 computers, and used personal information stolen from them to extort sexually explicit videos of young women and teenage girls, has been sentenced to six years in prison.

32-year-old Luis Mijangos, an illegal immigrant from Mexico who was living in Santa Ana, California, was arrested last year after a lengthy investigation by the authorities.

Mijangos infected his victims' computers with malware, allowing him to gain access to their email accounts, turn on their webcam to take secret movies, and search their PCs for sexually explicit and intimate images and videos.

In some cases, Mijangos also posed as some of the victims' boyfriends to convince them to send him nude pictures.

At this point, things got really nasty. Mijangos would threaten to post his victims' intimate images online unless they provided him with more sexually explicit photos and videos for his personal gratification.

In at least one instance, Mijangos posted naked photographs of a woman on her friend's MySpace page.

Mijangos, who is confined to a wheelchair because of a medical condition, was sentenced to six years in prison by US District Judge George King.

Before sentencing, Mijangos apologised to his victims:

"To all the victims I want to say that I'm sorry. I'm ready to do the right thing and stay out of trouble."

WebcamMijangos is far from the first hacker to take remote control of webcams to spy upon victims.

For instance, in early 2005, Spanish authorities fined a student who captured movie footage from 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 English 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.

Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising incident I have heard of, however, is the case of the man who is alleged to have displayed error messages on his potential victims' laptop screens, tricking them into taking their webcams into the shower with them.

With many home users keeping poorly-defended PCs in their bedroom, there is clearly considerable potential for abuse - particularly amongst the young. The message is simple: keep your PC protected against the latest threats with anti-malware software, security patches and firewalls, and if in any doubt unplug your webcam when you're not using it.

Picture credit: Nick Ut/AP

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32 Responses to 'Peeping Tom' webcam blackmailer jailed for six years

  1. Vrodrider · 1091 days ago

    illegal immigrant
    well that about says it all hope they pulled his SSI and deport him in 6 yrs 1 day

    • totallydisgusted · 1013 days ago

      As a illegal I hope he wasn't collecting SSI. They should deport him now and not waste taxpayers money housing and feeding him, and giving him better medical treatment than a lot of legal Americans get.

      I'm a disabled person fighting for disability, and have no insurance. It's makes me sick when illegals are treated better than a American born citizen is.

  2. Michael Mousman · 1091 days ago

    This is sexually deviant and hefty sentence should be mandatory. Also perpetrators should have a lifetime computer ban imposed on them as well as life on the sex offenders register!!!

  3. Michael · 1091 days ago

    Have they revealed who created the malware, and how it found its way onto the victim's computers? It's quite worrying to think it might inadvertantly be downloaded from legitimate sites commonly being visited by the general public.

    • According to reports, the malware was spread via peer-to-peer networks, emails and instant messaging. The files were typically disguised as music files or videos.

      • Michael · 1091 days ago

        Interesting. It seems to be, at the very least, a variation of common spyware modified to read from the easily accessible file (for Windows Explorer) which stores webmail login details. That part is quite easy to pull off. This could be a much bigger problem than it looks.

    • Sketchy · 1091 days ago

      It's a RAT or a Remote Access Tool, Remote Admin Tool, etc

      • Michael · 1091 days ago

        Yeah, I almost forgot about those, as I was following another line of thought. He was able to get login details for online services, so either he knew where they were stored or the spyware was designed to read from the file that stores them. It could be the case the spyware was also manipulating a common messaging application that already had access to the webcams.

  4. Ron · 1091 days ago

    The sad thing is that these young people use there web cams to gain popularity in chat rooms. I try to educate everyone I can about the abuse that is happening in these types of chat rooms and how easy it is for someone to send them a file to gain access to their web cams at anytime. If they are unwilling to unplug or even unable to remove the cam from their computers I urge them to put a piece of tape over the lens of the camera when they aren't using it.. You can only reach out to and/or educate just so many people these days.

  5. two cents · 1091 days ago

    This may sound rude - but if he's there illegally - why is he going to jail? He should simply be sent back to Mexico. By putting him in jail aren't they essentially paying for the medical condition he has and paying to support him? Perhaps that's what he wanted in the end - maybe his medical bills were getting to high.

    • Machin Shin · 1091 days ago

      Welcome to America the land of twisted Government and crooked politics. For some reason being here illegally does not mean you are a criminal that should be punished for your crimes. Instead you are somehow part of a persecuted group that is treated unfairly. So unfairly that almost everywhere you go in this country businesses bend over backwards to offer things in Spanish, our tax dollars go to educating them in the public school system, as well as them getting many other benefits despite not paying taxes. It is just totally cruel and unfair though to say that those here illegally should be sent back to their own country, that is just prejudice.

    • Garry Johnson · 1091 days ago

      Because to simply send him to Mexico is not punishing him. He is receiving treatment the same as he would get if he was simple caught being an illegal immigrant.

      Instead he needs to be punished by imprisonment, then deported.

    • Yeah, being the guy who committed sexually related crimes makes prison GREAT FUN!!! Everybody completely forgiving of what you did and they even respect you. Even if those nice inmates of yours want to do something wild and crazy, like say beat you up, you can just use your chair as a weapon.

      It also totally fair to use medical problems as a way to punish them. It really ensures an equality of the justice system.

      Yes, it sounded rude.

  6. Liesandvideotape · 1091 days ago

    Peopleneedtobeawarehowtechnologyhasbecometheweaponofchoiceforcriminals

  7. Readeroo · 1091 days ago

    Why can't there just be physical caps on the web-cams?

    • This anti-peeping webcam is a rather wonderful design...

      • Joe · 1090 days ago

        Family & friends and friends of friends often bring me their computers to remove viruses from. When cleaning up laptops with built-in cameras for people I often cover the camera with a small super-sticky post it note. I wouldn't use tape and have recommended to other also to not use tape because it can and often does leave residue behind that can get quite dirty and is very hard to clean off of the lens.

        I wish it was standard for cameras to have some type of physical cover.

      • kbootie · 1084 days ago

        my logitech webcam has a builded in cover

        • Sam Keller · 986 days ago

          "builded in" Jeez, it's "built in". Another product of our wonderful educational system

    • glass · 665 days ago

      I use a band aid. Wish I could get a model of a computer that doesnt have a web cam.

  8. Easy solution, dont store nude pics and dont have a computer in the bed room.

  9. FatJR · 1089 days ago

    I am a fat, very white, hairy guy anybody tapping into my p.c. might just have their eyes burned from my brightness!!! hack my cam see if I care

  10. Tammy · 1087 days ago

    Everone thats a pervert should go to jail in a wheelchair or not to bad!!!! you play you pay!!! then take all acess to his life away and probiton for the rest of his life!! Tehy do it here and then I seen some fricking get away with it not go to jail but check in with police, probation once a week for indiff, I have been hacked 5 times in one year on here but now I smarten up took a whil to fiqure out some things, But so far so good!!! Tammy

  11. YoungGuyEast · 1085 days ago

    Most webcams cannot be unplugged. That was five years ago.

  12. Bruce · 1080 days ago

    Maybe this guy needs a remote appt with a proctologist.

  13. guest · 1079 days ago

    to bad he didnt get in to the white house computers then they would change thier minds about all these people that dont belong here . send the rat back to his own country we dont want that here ,

  14. Clemmie · 1065 days ago

    Why should we have to pay for his prison stay?

    • Drawer 22 · 1014 days ago

      To answer your question: Because he needs proctological care.

  15. tbtn · 1014 days ago

    So as he receives free secured room, board, heating, A/C, medical, dental, cable and gym membership for 6 years, I would recommend medically and permanently disconnect his nerve endings at his you-know-where, so he cannot continue or complete his sick fantasies.

  16. GreyFox · 1000 days ago

    How about earning his stay in the slammer on the chain gang. I'm for shorter time/hard labor. Why let losers sit in a cell doing push ups so they can fight better and cause more crimes. Why not take all their butt's (wheel chair's included) to the local landfil and make them seperate recyclable items.Let trash play in the trash. Harder time = less crimes. Take away their right's to their stupid lawsuit's they file while in there too.
    Child molesters and pervert's like this one should all be confined to a certain section of town when they are let out.Make a device that explodes when they exceed the boundry. Never mix them back into soceity to prey on innocent people . Put a big CM stamp on their forehead at least so we recognize them and can prevent them from access to our children.

  17. Rossde · 912 days ago

    hmmmm how about the companies that are legally allowed to sell this software like Sniperspy? shouldn't they be held responsible as well? there are any number of sellers out there and much of it is not picked up by anti virus scans and is self replicating if one part is found.
    I can't understand how this can be sold over the internet without anyone commenting

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.