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News

Webcam voyeur given custodial term

Sophos : 06 August, 2008  (Technical Article)
Cyprus hacker goes to jail for spying using hacked webcam and attempting to blackmail his victim into posing naked
IT security and control firm Sophos is reminding computer users about the importance of properly securing PCs, following news that a man has been jailed for preying upon young women via internet webcams.

The 47-year-old man from Cyprus has been given a four year jail sentence after hacking a teenage girl's webcam in order to take illicit pictures of the young woman in her bedroom.

'Most spyware is designed to steal your identity, your passwords or your banking information - but it is just as easy for hackers to program a Trojan horse to take over your webcam,' said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. 'This case highlights that as well as malware being used for financial gain, it can also be used by voyeurs. Everyone needs to give computer security the upmost importance to ensure they do not fall victim to an internet blackmailer or a Peeping Tom.'

According to reports, the man, who has not been named but is a computer technician, spied on the then 17-year-old girl through her webcam after infecting her PC with a spyware Trojan horse that he sent to her as an email attachment. The middle-aged hacker took compromising photos of the teenager while she was alone in her bedroom for an extended period of time without her knowledge, and then threatened to send the pictures to her email contacts unless she posed naked in front of the webcam. The girl refused and the police were contacted, resulting in the man's arrest in 2005.

Sophos notes that there have been other cases in the past where hackers have taken remote control of innocent users' webcams in order to spy upon them, and that the problem of poorly-defended PCs does not just affect young home users, but workers too.

'These attacks are not just a problem for youngsters,' continued Cluley. 'Home and remote workers use computers often equipped with webcams and may have lax protection in place. The danger of people using a 'work' computer for non-approved use such as instant messaging are well documented. Companies should deploy application control technology to set a strict policy as to which programs, such as chat clients, can be used by their employees.'

Sophos recommends that companies protect their email gateways with a consolidated solution to defend against viruses, spyware and spam, as well as secure their desktop and servers with automatically updated protection. Sophos's Application Control functionality - which is integrated into Sophos Endpoint Security and Control - puts the power in system administrator's hands to control usage of many different types of programs amongst their users.
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