Spanish webcam spies and online fraudsters apprehended by authorities

Sophos has welcomed news that four people have been arrested in Spain, in connection with a series of online crimes including malware writing, data theft and credit card fraud.

According to Spanish newspaper reports, two seventeen year-olds were arrested yesterday in Alicante, charged with creating a Trojan horse which allowed them to remotely take control of webcams within local educational institutions. This enabled the duo to spy on students and record compromising images, which they then used to blackmail the victims into giving them money.

Later in the same day, two adults were arrested in Madrid, in connection with the original inquiry. It is claimed that the adults used the teenage malware authors to obtain confidential data in order to commit credit card fraud. Using fake credit card details, the two adults allegedly made purchases amounting to more than 60,000 EUR.

“The two individuals charged with creating the Trojan may be minors, but this is no schoolboy prank – these criminals were in it for the money, and were prepared to blackmail and steal from their peers, as well as selling on personal information so that other wrongdoers could get in on the act,” said Carole Theriault, senior security consultant at Sophos. “It’s encouraging to see the Spanish authorities responding to the concerns of businesses and home computer users, and actively pursuing the perpetrators of all online criminal behaviour.”

The investigation, named ‘Praxis’ has been ongoing since a Spanish computer science organisation fell victim to a hack attack in August 2005. The Spanish authorities have also made available a free disinfectant tool for users whose computers were compromised by the Trojan. Sophos experts note that this is not the first time the Spanish police have had to deal with webcam-related online crime. In February 2005 a Spanish male computer student was fined for spying on a young woman via her webcam, as well as monitoring her online conversations and email communications.

“Whether it’s done for financial gain or for dubious personal reasons, spying on others using webcams is a sick and twisted thing to do, and likely to traumatise the innocent people that suffer this invasion of privacy,” continued Theriault. “In this case, if found guilty, the Spanish courts need to dish out a tough sentence to all parties, in order to send out the message that this type of online behaviour will not be tolerated.”

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