Hacker blackmailed 350 women into stripping on their webcams, FBI says

Filed Under: Facebook, Featured, Law & order, Privacy

Webcam. Image from ShutterstockThe FBI has arrested a 27-year-old man, who they claim hacked the accounts of Facebook users, and coerced hundreds of women into stripping while he watched via Skype.

Karen "Gary" Kazaryan, of Glendale, California, was arrested yesterday on federal computer hacking charges.

According to a Department of Justice press release, Kazaryan is alleged to have broken into victims' email and Facebook accounts, changed their passwords, and searched for naked and semi-naked photographs.

Additionally, Kazaryan is said to have scooped up other information about his victims, including their passwords, names of their friends, and other personal details.

Posing as a woman, Kazaryan would allegedly trick other potential victims into believing they were talking to one of their female friends, and persuade them to remove their clothing in front of their webcam.

Kazaryan allegedly threatened to post nude photos of some of his victims on their Facebook pages if they refused to comply with his demands.

The FBI says that it has seized approximately 3,000 compromising photos from Kazaryan's computer, and believes more than 350 women may have suffered from what the FBI has described as "sextortion".

If convicted of all counts, Kazaryan could face up to 105 years in federal prison.

The FBI is urging all women who believe they might be a victim to contact the Los Angeles Field Office at (310) 477-6565.

How hackers use webcams to get their sexual kicks

Over the years, we've heard plenty of stories of hackers who have use webcams to spy on young women, and blackmail them into stripping or performing sexual acts.

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.

In 2011, a 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, was sentenced to six years in prison.

ShowerPerhaps 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.

Suspected hackerPS. The good news is that sometimes webcam spying can backfire on the hackers.

In 2012, the Georgian government claimed it had linked an internet attack against its computers back to Russia's security services.

More than that, however, the Georgian government's CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team) turned the tables on a hacker they believed was involved in the attack, by secretly taking over his computer and taking video footage of him.

Maybe it would be a good idea if we all took more notice when the little green bulb on our webcam lights up..

Webcam image from Shutterstock.

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18 Responses to Hacker blackmailed 350 women into stripping on their webcams, FBI says

  1. Richard · 579 days ago

    "... women as young as 14 ..."
    The word "women" is usually only applied to adults; 14-year-olds are children.

    • Carl · 579 days ago

      14 years old are teens, not children.

      • Richard · 578 days ago

        In most cultures, anyone under the age of 18 is a child, or at least not an adult. The word "woman" is defined as "adult human female". Therefore, it cannot be applied to a 14-year-old.

        • Jessica · 8 days ago

          False. In "most" cultures by percent a woman is defined by her hitting puberty which can happen earlier than 14. Historically speaking if you consider 14 to be a child then every one of our ancestors, even in western cultures, sans the last 250 years were pedophiles dating back since the dawn of man.

          • C'mon people, let's agree on 'females as young as 14' and move on. Whether they're described as women, adults or children doesn't alter the events that occurred or their seriousness.

  2. James · 579 days ago

    The moment I realize this person has hacked my facebook, I would just go in and chance my password and my password to the email it is connected to. Seriously though I have never had any accounts anywhere hacked. So many of these idiots use idiotic passwords that are easier for hackers to figure out. Of course these are the same kind of idiots who fall for shit like this.

    • JJJ · 579 days ago

      You can't "go in and chance [sic] your password" if the perv has already changed it for you.

      • Rosnsc · 577 days ago

        Actually, yes you can. You know your info; the password reset key is sent to your secondary email account, which you have selected for just that purpose. My son experienced that very thing, last year. You change your password, making it more secure, and change up your security questions.

    • I wouldn't call guessing a password or searching for clues about a user's password then using it to login hacking Facebook.
      Agreed on the weak passwords, though.
      Usually it is a pets name, boyfriend name, birth date and similar things like that. Doesn't take too long to find a way to login into someones account if you have the patience for it.

  3. Jack · 579 days ago

    I find it hard to believe that an error message could coerce somebody into taking their camera into a shower? Is there no common sense anymore. It seems that more and more violations are occurring when the victim should have used some common sense and turned it off or turned them in to the police or both!

    I know many are uncomfortable with their nudity but if they insist on posting it, don't be surprised if it ends up everywhere. They should cut their loses and turn them in, they can't win otherwise.

    Common sense needs to be.

    Jack

    • Mark · 579 days ago

      http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2011/06/09/peepin...

      "You should fix your internal sensor soon. If unsure what to do, try putting your laptop near hot steam for several minutes to clean the sensor."

    • If I'm correct, the error message that they were receiving said that there was a problem with the temperature of the computer and to reduce damage, take it into a room with high humidity, such as a bathroom during a shower.

      Granted yes, it requires an idiot in front of the machine to actually do this. But, you can't fix stupid.

      • Angela · 567 days ago

        It requires a naive teenager, like a user said a bit above, they're not "women" they are teenagers, kids in other words. Think back all the silly things you've done as a kid/teen. Sometimes I amaze my ownself when I stop to think about the stupid things I've done. We are not born with a "do and dont" warning on owr brains. We slowly learn by our mistakes. Unfortunally nowdays a little "mistake" goes far.

  4. Kevin · 579 days ago

    The section of your article entitled; "How hackers use webcams to get their sexual kicks" explains NOTHING about HOW they do it, nor HOW to protect yourself. Grrrr...

    • They can take over webcams via malware (see the examples linked to in the article)

      In the case of this latest alleged criminal, it's not specified that malware was involved, but is said that he used Skype.. but pretended to be one of his victims' friends. He could always have claimed that his own webcam/microphone wasn't working, and be able to see without being seen himself.

      Of course, if a cybercriminal had managed to find nude pictures of a victim already (through scouring email accounts and Facebook messages) then you simply pressure your victim to do things in front of their webcam, on threat of sharing their private content more widely.

      How to protect yourself? Various options. Including - don't take naked photos of yourself, don't send anyone naked photos of yourself, keep your computer protected with security patches and anti-virus, be careful who you link up with on Facebook, use different passwords on different services, take your computer out of your bedroom, cover your webcam up when you don't want to use it...

  5. Quinsha · 579 days ago

    Before changing your passwords to facebook, run a malware scanner and antivirus scanner. If you have a keylogger on your computer, you will just be giving them the new password. If you must change out the password immediately, use a different computer (one that you trust) to change the passwords.

  6. spryte · 579 days ago

    I wonder what is under that wee piece of electrical tape on the top of my laptop screen...

    Probably the least useful device on my computer, the bleepbleep webcam.

  7. gue · 577 days ago

    okay so FYI the light on webcams can be disabled

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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.