Industry News

Woman charged with running webcam-hacking network

It’s not at unusual these days to hear stories of innocent people’s webcams being hacked. Typically the perpetrators are guys, getting their kicks out of snooping and spying covertly without the knowledge of their victim, sometimes furtively stealing snapshots or blackmailing young women into performing sexual acts on camera.

This is one of the reasons why it can be a good idea to keep your computer out of the bedroom, or at least cover the webcam’s camera when not in use.

But what is unusual is for the person arrested in connection with a spree of webcam hacks to be female.

Canadian police report that they have arrested a 27-year-old woman from Saint-Alphonse-de-Rodriguez, Quebec, in connection with a spree of unpleasant attacks, where victims were spied upon and harassed through their webcams.

According to the police announcement, the woman is alleged to have installed a malicious Remote Access Trojan onto victims’ PCs, providing the ability for entire control of the computer to be hijacked and the webcam to be commandeered.

The hacker is said to have not just eavesdropped on private communications, and frightened unsuspected users by talking back through their speaker and remotely logging into hardcore porn websites, but also counting underage children around the world amongst her victims.

“She spoke with them, she interacted with them. She showed them some pornography on the screen just to see how they would react,” said Philippe Gravel of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s integrated technological crime unit.

Videos of petrified victims are then said to have been uploaded to a YouTube channel under the woman’s control for the “entertainment” of her followers.

The woman, who local media reports claim has been identified as Valérie Gignac, is also alleged to be the owner of an active online hacking forum with 35,000 members worldwide.

The online forum has now been seized by the authorities.

According to Gignac’s lawyer, Michel Leclerc, his client was not attempting to make any money through the hacks but was just engaged in “a bad prank”.

Well, I don’t know about you M Leclerc, but in my opinion it stops being a bad prank when you hijack an innocent person’s computer to display hardcore pornography to underage children.

Gignac, who was charged with four counts related to the unauthorized use of a computer and mischief in relation to computer data, has been released on bail until June, but has been told to not use a computer or access the internet in the meantime.

About the author

Graham CLULEY

Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, researcher and public speaker. He has been working in the computer security industry since the early 1990s, having been employed by companies such as Sophos, McAfee and Dr Solomon's. He has given talks about computer security for some of the world's largest companies, worked with law enforcement agencies on investigations into hacking groups, and regularly appears on TV and radio explaining computer security threats.

Graham Cluley was inducted into the InfoSecurity Europe Hall of Fame in 2011, and was given an honorary mention in the "10 Greatest Britons in IT History" for his contribution as a leading authority in internet security.

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  • What was the name of the forum they seized? Any idea how she got the RAT onto the victims computers in the first place?