Alleged webcam hacker accused of spying on girls

IT security and control firm Sophos is warning home computer users about the importance of properly securing PCs, following news that a man who allegedly used computer malware to prey upon young women has been charged in Canada. According to media reports, 27-year-old Daniel Lesiewicz has been charged with using spyware to take over the webcams of girls as young as 14 and coercing them into posing naked for him.

Lesiewicz, the owner of a computer support company, has appeared in a Montreal courtroom on charges of possessing and producing child pornography, extortion and threats.  According to the Sûreté du Québec, Lesiewicz made friends with teenage girls in internet chatrooms, sent them emails which infected their computers with malware, and then persuaded them to pose naked online.

The victims are then said to have been contacted by another internet user called “Dave”, who told the women that nude photos of them would be posted on the net unless they posed again in front of their webcams.

According to a police spokeswoman, most of the young women who had their computers hacked were between the ages of 14 and 19, but some were in their twenties.

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.

In early 2005, Spanish authorities fined a student who captured movie footage from unsuspecting users, and arrested a 37-year-old man who spied on victims via a webcam while stealing banking information.  In the same year, a 35-year-old computer technician from Nicosia, Cyprus was apprehended after taking compromising pictures of a teenager via her webcam, and threatening to send the pictures to her friends unless she posed naked.  18 months ago, Adrian Ringland, from Ilkeston in Derbyshire, was sentenced to jail for ten years after admitting posing as a minor on internet chatrooms and using spyware to take explicit photographs via children’s webcams.

“Many young people may have poorly-defended PCs in their bedrooms, leaving them potentially open to abuse.  Although most malware these days is designed to steal money from its victims, clearly some hackers are being motivated by sexual kicks instead,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos.  “The message is simple: keep your PC protected against the latest threats with anti-malware software, security patches and firewalls, and if in any doubt unplug your webcam when you’re not using it.”

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