A BBC investigation revealed that access to a womanâ€™s compromised webcam is being bought on the black market for only a dollar. The same amount could buy access to 100 webcams owned by men.
After Childnet International warned that covering webcams is not paranoia, a BBC Radio 5 live investigation exposed the thriving black market of pictures and videos captured on webcams without peopleâ€™s consent. Targets known as a “slaves” or “bots” are infected after clicking on malicious links that pose as legitimate web sites.
Cyber-criminals gain access to computers using remote-access Trojans (RATs) which allow them to compromise webcams. Some victims related their experience to the BBC.
â€œI was sitting in the bath, trying to relax, and suddenly someone potentially has access to me in this incredibly private moment and it’s horrifying,â€ a 20 year-old Glasgow student told the UK-based broadcaster. â€œTo have it happen to you without your consent is horribly violating.â€
â€œI can make money from it, so why not,â€ a Finnish hacker told the BBC. The 17 year-old said he obtained details of more than 500 computers and sold them on the black market for webcam spying.
Another teenager allegedly hacked webcams only for fun. 16 year-old John, who lives near London, said he hacked over 100 computers and viewed webcams on almost half of them.
â€œI wasn’t really looking for anything on their webcams, just their reactions,â€ John told the BBC. â€œI’d open up random sites – shock sites – they’d see a scary picture or someone screaming, and you’d see they were scared. It is illegal. But the risk of getting caught, that someone would do something about you trolling people, isn’t that much. It’s just a bit of a laugh.â€
Childnet International said webcams should be disconnected when not in use, and teenagers should not leave webcams in bedrooms or other private areas.
Internet Service Providers in the UK recently announced they will filter pornographic content by default for all home users by the end of the year. Google has also said it will clean the Internet of child porn images and help law enforcement identify the distributers.