A US teenager has pleaded guilty to hacking computer webcams to capture images of women in the US, Ireland and elsewhere to blackmail them.
The 19-year-old computer science student, Jared James Abrahams, is believed to have targeted more than 20 young women, including the current Miss Teen USA, Cassidy Wolf.
In September 2013, he surrendered to FBI agents after they raided his home in Temecula, California and seized computers, mobile phones and hacking software, according to court records.
Appearing in court at Santa Ana, California, Abrahams pleaded guilty to three counts of extortion and one count of unauthorised computer access.
Abrahams is due to be sentenced in March 2014 and faces up to 11 years in jail and $1m in fines. His lawyers have asked the judge to consider mitigating claims of Abrahams’s autism during sentencing.
According to court documents, Abrahams threatened to post pictures he had taken of his victims while they were undressed if they did not send him additional photos or strip for him on Skype video.
In 2012, a US court jailed Trevor Timothy for hacking women’s laptops and sending an alert stating that they needed to place the machines “near hot steam” to fix an internal sensor, according to the BBC.
When victims took their laptops to their bathrooms at bath time, Timothy used their webcams to take photos of them getting undressed.
In response to such cases, the Childnet International charity has issued a warning that webcams should be disconnected when not in use.
The charity has also published several guides online about the safe and responsible use of video chatting services and webcams.
One guide warns that “sharing video can give away personal information and the feed can also be recorded by anyone watching and then potentially shared or uploaded anywhere online”.
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