The extortionist who last month attempted to blackmail Miss Teen USA, Cassidy Wolf, after hacking her computer and saving images from her webcam was arrested on Friday, the FBI has confirmed.
Jared Abrahams, 19, a California computer science student who went by the handle "cutefuzzypuppy" online, used a remote administration tool (RAT) to gain access to Wolf's computer. He spied on her for nearly a year between May 2012 and March 2013, and used photos he had acquired to attempt to manipulate her into sending him further photos and videos. He threatened to publish the images on her social media accounts and the accounts of her friends if she didn't comply with his demands. Instead, Wolf contacted the police.
Investigators from the FBI's LA cyber squad examined Wolf's laptop and found evidence of two distinct RATs, known as DarkComet and Blackshades. From there, computer forensics experts discovered that these programs were contacting a service called no-ip.org, which allowed the malware to be controlled remotely by their owner. Once the Bureau had gained access to the records kept by no-ip.org, they found an account under Abrahams' father's name, and the sextortionist's web began to untangle. Investigators soon staked out his school, and trawled through his activity on hackforums.net.
As the investigation was underway, Abrahams continued to threaten Wolf through anonymising email services, and some of his other victims had compromising photos published on their hacked social media accounts. The FBI decided to shut him down before more damage could be done. When a search was undertaken of his Temecula, CA family home, investigators found videos and photos of victims, as well as multiple examples of RAT software.
Abrahams admitted to investigators that he had used malware to infect his targets' computers and save images of them that could later be used for extortion. It is thought that his more than a dozen victims ranged as far as Ireland, Canada and Russia, and without Wolf's bravery in exposing him, he could still be at large.
Wolf told the Today Show that "the light [on the webcam] didn't even go on, so I had no idea", and Abrahams appears to have boasted on hackforums.net about his knowledge of different camera models and drivers. The case has highlighted the growing problem of RAT spying, and the need for greater public awareness of the security problems surrounding our constant exposure to cameras – on laptops, phones and tablets.
After an initial court appearance last week, Abrahams was released on $50,000 (£30,800) bail, and is due to appear again on 4 November after an indictment is filed against him by a grand jury.
Image: Flickr (zennie62)