A SANTA ANA MAN has been sentenced to six years in US federal prison for using a computer trojan to spy on dozens of female users and extort intimate pictures from them.
Luis Mijangos, 32, was arrested in June last year following a two-year investigation by the FBI. The probe began when a victim notified police that she was being extorted online.
Back in March, Mijangos, who is an illegal immigrant from Mexico, admitted having infected a teenage girl's computer with a trojan to spy on her online conversations. He also used the malware to take control of her webcam and activate it without her knowledge.
This allowed him to obtain naked photos of the girl, which he then threatened to make public if she didn't comply with this requests. When the victim told a friend about the situation, Mijangos published the intimate pictures on her Myspace profile.
According to the FBI, the hacker used social engineering attacks to trick victims into installing the trojan on their computers. This involved passing it as a scary video file.
Mijangos hijacked the email accounts of his victims and used them to send the trojan to their friends, therefore increasing his chances of distributing the malware successfully. Prosecutors believe that as many as 230 individuals used computers infected by him, 44 of them juveniles.
They claim Mijangos played psychological games on his victims. One of the women who testified in court compared the psychological effects of sextortion to those of domestic violence that she had experienced in the past.
"This was nothing short of a sustained effort to terrorize victims. ... A lot of people suffered-and suffered greatly," said US District Judge George H. King in imposing the sentence. He also described the attacks as "psychological warfare" and "cyberterrorism".
Sextortion is a very serious threat to female users, especially those who expose too much personal information about themselves publicly on social networking web sites.
Last month, George Samuel Bronk, a 24-year-old man from Citrus Heights, CA, was sentenced to four years in prison for computer intrusion, false impersonation and possession of child pornography.
Bronk used publicly available information to hack into the email and Facebook accounts of many women from the US and England. He then leaked intimate pictures and videos found in those accounts on the Internet or used them for sextortion. µ