August 17, 2013
Webcam hacking has officially gone mainstream with yesterday’s revelation that the new Miss Teen USA, Cassidy Wolf, was the victim of a “sextortion” plot in which someone slipped Remote Administration Tool (RAT) software onto her computer and used it to snap (apparently nude) pictures of Wolf in her room. “I wasn’t aware that somebody was watching me (on my webcam),” she told The Today Show. “The light (on the camera) didn’t even go on, so I had no idea.”
Wolf said that the hacker tried to extort her, threatening to release the pictures publicly if she didn’t follow his demands. The FBI has admitted that it is investigating the case and eventually said that has identified a suspect.
The story itself isn’t remarkable—indeed, earlier this year I documented an entire community of RAT users who gather to share tips and pictures of the “slaves” whose machines they have infected—but these kinds of sextortion plots have to date been covered largely in the tech press and in local papers. (Though GQ ran a fine story on sextortionist Luis Mijangos in early 2012 that’s well worth a read). Wolf has now taken the story onto the morning TV talk shows, and her interviewers appear to be amazed that such hacks are even possible.
In doing interviews this week for my new book, The Internet Police, many of the questions have focused on sextortion and the use of RAT software. These hacks are such a profound privacy violation—accessing webcams, microphones, and stored files provides the attacker with almost unfettered access to one’s private life, thoughts, documents, even conversations—that they routinely generate amazement in interlocutors. As one TV host put it after hearing Wolf’s story this week, “Just—wow, that is creepy… Can you believe that?” Or, as a Jezebel writer put it today, “webcam hacking—WHICH I CANNOT BELIEVE IS A REAL THING OH MY GOD.”
This article was posted: Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 4:05 am