A university student from the US was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Monday, after he hacked into the webcams of girls and women to take nude photos of them.20-year-old Jared James Abrahams gained control of his victims' webcams, including that of Miss Teen USA, and took pictures of them while they were undressed in their rooms.The FBI has also publicly acknowledged its ability to employ such techniques when investigating criminal activity: Last year, a federal magistrate rejected the agency’s request to secretly monitor a suspected criminal through his webcam.The Chinese government used a program called Ghostnet—which involved remote access to webcams—to spy directly on the Dalai Lama, though it is not known whether or not they first disabled the indicator light.But PC users shouldn’t rejoice—Mac Books are not the only devices at risk.Webcam-spying—particularly the variant that involves disabling LED indicator lights—takes quite a bit of effort, but the practice isn’t limited to the realm of benevolent academics.The woman was shocked when she received two nude photos of herself by e-mail.The photos had been taken over a period of several months — without her knowledge — by the built-in camera on her laptop.
In other words, if a laptop has a built-in camera, it’s possible someone — whether the federal government or a malicious 19 year old — could access it to spy on the user at any time.
According to the criminal complaint, one of Abrahams' victims, who was 17-year-old girl at the time, told Abrahams that she was downloading Skype to comply with his demands but asked him to “have a heart” because of her age. Abrahams faced up to 11 years in federal prison if convicted of all of the charges against him at trial.
The student pleaded guilty in November to extortion and computer hacking.
Some students in the Lower Merion School District reported seeing the indicator light turn on with no explanation.
And earlier this year, a 19-year-old man used covertly recorded webcam images of several women—including Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf—as part of an extortion effort, threatening to post nude images if his demands were not met.