Webcam hacking goes mainstream

Kaylan Coke, Focus Editor

Society views hacking as a skill that could be used for criminal purposes or legitimate purposes but hackers view it as a part of curiosity and thrill – a chance to get a bite of the forbidden fruit of knowledge.

Hackers initially trick their victims into downloading viruses onto their computers, usually through links included in emails. Victims may not know that by clicking on the received link they have downloaded Remote Administration Tool (RAT) software, which allows the hackers to take full control of the computer at any given time.

In one “sextortion” case, practice of obtaining something through sexual threats, 19-year-old, Jared James Abrahams landed one of the viruses into the computer of California native and Miss Teen USA 2012, Cassidy Wolf, and immediately began blackmailing her. She then received threatening emails containing nude photos of her.

Abrahams threatened to distribute the pictures obtained of her on on all her accounts and all over the internet if she didn’t follow his instructions to either send him a personal video of her or join him on Skype for a video chat in addition to sending nude pictures of herself.

RAT software typically uses webcams as their means of invasion, however a hacker may have placed other programs on the victim’s computer as well. Keylogger, one of the well-known hacking software, allows hackers to record all the keystrokes struck on their keyboard. Through this software, the hacker can gain access to personal accounts and information and view every single action the computer took.

Hackers bypass the security in a covert manner to ensure that the victims using the computer do not know that they have been targeted. Wolf never knew that someone had been spying on her because her webcam’s light never turned on. Hackers target at-risk computers, those without up-to-date anti-virus software installed.

“I believe that these type of webcam hacks can be done on tablets and mobiles but with more complexity for the hackers to bypass,” sophomore Danny Diez said.

Abrahams admitted to tormenting several other victims from California as well as Canada, Russia and Moldova . He surrendered himself to FBI Agents. The court charged him under the Computer Misuse Act with a $50,000 bail, pretrial supervision and home detention with electric monitoring. The judge restricted his use of computer to a desktop with monitoring software at his parents’ home for schoolwork.

“I don’t see how this can’t be possible on phones and iPods,” freshman Saliha Crespo said. “To avoid these situations, don’t undress in front of computers or any electrical devices with cameras because you might regret later when this occurs to you.”