Sexual assault by Internet

Now, this is different. A computer cracker, Luis Mijangos of Santa Ana, CA has been arrested by the FBI for taking over more than 100 Windows PCs and using what he found on them to extort sexually explicit videos from women and teenage girls by threatening to release their personal data.

It started, from reports, like many other hacker attacks. He trolled for victims on P2P (peer-to-peer file-sharing) and IRC (Internet Relay Chat) networks under the nickname "guicho." Mijangos is alleged to have sent out malware disguised as popular songs. Once downloaded, Mijangos took control of their computers and used them to spread the malware to their friends over IM (instant messaging). He also planted "keyloggers" on their PC so he could record their every keystroke as they went about their daily computer use.

So far, we're not talking about anything that doesn't happen tens of thousands of time a day. But, this is where the story takes a different twist. Mijangos didn't just automatically use the infected computer to send out spam and malware or siphon off credit-card passwords and the like the way most botnet controllers would do. No, instead, he went looking on his victim's computers for sexually explicit or intimate images and videos.

If he couldn't find any, he is accused of hacking e-mail accounts and, pretending to be their boyfriends, asking them to take such videos or photographs. If they used a Webcam, he would also turn the Webcam on to watch the women and teen-aged girls.

Then, adding insult to injury, he would stop passively watching, like an Internet age peeping tom, and start demanding sexually explicit videos. He is accused of telling the women that if they didn't deliver the goods, he would send their sexually explicit videos to their friends and family. And, of course, he is alleged to have said that he'd also show their dirty laundry to the world if they went to the police.

Mijangos' "defense" is that he did indeed hack into their computers but that he only did so at because their boyfriends and husbands asked him to find out if they were cheating on them. Amazing huh? Let's just say he seems to have been a much better hacker than he is a defense attorney.

What can I say about this? By now, I'd thought everyone knew the top ten basics of PC security. It's not like there's anything new that can be said, except my constant encouragement for people to switch to more secure operating systems like Linux. Hey, it seems to be working for Google.

Still, there is another issue here. While I get that, as the Avenue Q song says, the Internet is for porn, I don't think a lot of people get that if you're going to expose yourself to a boyfriend or girlfriend over the net, there's always a chance that it's going to go public. If there's some photo, video, information, whatever, that you don't want the world to see or know about, do not put it on an Internet-connected PC. Mijangos is an exceptional case, but there are always people on the net who will take advantage of you given half-a-chance.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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