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Arrest Made In Webcam Highjacking Extortion Case 311

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-own-more-cameras-than-you-think dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "CNN reports that Jared James Abrahams, a 19-year-old computer science student, has been arrested for allegedly hijacking the webcams of young women — among them reigning Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf — taking nude images, then blackmailing his victims to send him more explicit material or else be exposed. Abrahams admitted he had 30 to 40 'slave computers' — or other people's electronic devices he controlled — and has had as many as 150 total. His arrest came six months after a teenager identified in court documents as C.W. alerted authorities. She has since publicly identified herself as Cassidy Wolf, the recently crowned Miss Teen USA. Wolf received messages featuring pictures of her at her Riverside County address and others apparently taken months earlier when she lived in Orange County, says the criminal complaint (PDF). The message explained 'what's going to happen' if Wolf didn't send pictures or videos or 'do what I tell you to do' in a five-minute Skype videoconference, according to the criminal complaint. 'Either you do one of the things listed below or I upload these pics and a lot more (I have a LOT more and those are better quality) on all your accounts for everybody to see and your dream of being a model will be transformed into a pornstar (sic),' wrote Abrahams. FBI agents raided Abrahams' Temecula home in June and seized computers and hardware, cellphones and hacking software, court records show. Outside the court, Abrahams' lawyer, Alan Eisner, said that his client's family feels 'profound regret and remorse' over what happened. Eisner told CNN affiliate KTLA that Abrahams is autistic. 'The family wants to apologize for the consequences of his behavior to the families who were affected.'"
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Arrest Made In Webcam Highjacking Extortion Case

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  • Autistic huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 27, 2013 @02:03PM (#44973783)

    The current excuse of the day when some nerdy low-life gets caught up to no good. Here is a hint, just because you have problems coping, it does not mean "I am autistic" is an excuse for being an arsehole.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Autistic people know right from wrong. It's no more a valid excuse than saying he's ugly.
    • Re:Autistic huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by meerling (1487879) on Friday September 27, 2013 @02:47PM (#44974305)
      Running a blackmail scam is NOT a symptom of autism.
      I sure hope he likes a having a tiny living area and orange jumpsuits.
      I agree, too many people are using pretty weak excuses for antisocial and illegal activities.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    since she didn't secure her computer enough

    • Poe's Law (Score:2, Redundant)

      by Valdrax (32670)

      she invited him in ... since she didn't secure her computer enough

      I really can't tell if you're making a tasteless joke parodying blaming rape victims, expressing a sincere belief in support of that train of thought, or being bitterly sarcastic about it, since any of those are believable on Slashdot.

    • by sycodon (149926)

      You think you are being sarcastic, but that view is widely held here judging from past discussions.

  • by RevDisk (740008) on Friday September 27, 2013 @02:05PM (#44973803) Journal
    Well, here's hoping that Abrahams gets a fairly long sentence. Coercion and blackmail is coercion and blackmail, regardless of the circumstances.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 27, 2013 @02:17PM (#44973955)

      What we learn from this:
      If a student spies on someone its a crime but if government does the same it's not.
      How does the saying go, do as I say but don't do what I do ?

      • Of course it's not a crime when a government spies, that's a normal part of their activity. Are you simple?
      • Please cite a case of a government agent hacking into someone's laptop, acquiring naked pictures of them, and then blackmailing the person using the naked pictures.

        It boggles my mind that multiple people found this comment "insightful".

    • by houghi (78078)

      If he asked to play music in the background, that would put him in jail for a seriously long time. Just extortion? Not so much.

    • by JMandingo (325160) on Friday September 27, 2013 @04:46PM (#44975587)

      Young Jared James Abrahams, I hereby sentence you to 20 years of coding for the NSA. Our country needs young innovators with such talents to preserve our eternal safety from those who would do us harm. As your reward, you can have access to all the nude webcam photos you want, we have the worlds largest data center chock full of the bestest stuff.

  • by hey! (33014) on Friday September 27, 2013 @02:09PM (#44973849) Homepage Journal

    Funny how being caught does that to people.

    • by LordNimon (85072) on Friday September 27, 2013 @02:36PM (#44974187)

      That makes sense. Until you are caught, you typically have only your perspective on what you're doing. There's no one else out there telling you that you've made a mistake. A lot of people change their minds about their activities once they realize that other people don't approve.

      • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday September 27, 2013 @03:04PM (#44974507) Homepage Journal

        That makes sense. Until you are caught, you typically have only your perspective on what you're doing. There's no one else out there telling you that you've made a mistake. A lot of people change their minds about their activities once they realize that other people don't approve.

        Ah, bullshit - I stole a pair of JNCO jeans once when I was a pre-teen, and believe me, I didn't need anyone else to tell me that I was in the wrong for doing it.

        • by roc97007 (608802) on Friday September 27, 2013 @03:53PM (#44975039) Journal

          Wow, just the other day, a woman mugged an elderly lady in a restaurant, and when caught insisted the mugging was justified because "the lady was rich. She was eating at a restaurant". It's amazing what mental gyrations people will go through to justify actions that the rest of us are pretty sure are wrong.

          • Indeed; I fear that cognitive dissonance has infected the herd mind, and is quickly becoming pandemic.

            The worst part is, I'm not sure there's anything any of us can do to stop it.

            • by roc97007 (608802)

              Agreed. Get out of the way, don't call attention to one's self, take steps to protect one's family, and wait it out. I think that's about it.

      • by Solandri (704621) on Friday September 27, 2013 @03:39PM (#44974857)

        Until you are caught, you typically have only your perspective on what you're doing. There's no one else out there telling you that you've made a mistake.

        Thing is, extortion isn't something you do alone. There's always the victim you're extorting. And the fact that you're extorting them means you fully understand what you're doing is against their wishes.

        Maybe he didn't fully comprehend the full extent of the emotional distress he was causing in his vicitms. But he damn well knew that "their perspective" of it was that they didn't want it to happen. Otherwise he would've just sent them an email asking them to pose nude, no extortion attempt.

      • That makes sense. Until you are caught, you typically have only your perspective on what you're doing. There's no one else out there telling you that you've made a mistake. A lot of people change their minds about their activities once they realize that other people don't approve.

        No, it only makes a sociopath sorry they were caught. Someone actually capable of feeling empathy would have thought about it after the first crime, not continue to do it 40 more times.

      • Until you are caught, you typically have only your perspective on what you're doing. There's no one else out there telling you that you've made a mistake. A lot of people change their minds about their activities once they realize that other people don't approve.

        Most people learn that lesson by time they're five or six.

      • A lot of people change their minds about their activities once they realize that other people don't approve.

        By trying to hide his activities, he already know that others don't approve. By threatening the victim with pain in order to get them to do what he wants, he shows he understand human motivations and behavior.

        This indicates a normal, or perhaps even above-normal understanding of human behavior. Very far from autistic.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's his family that is expressing regret, not him.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      In fairness, I think it was his family that was expressing regret. As well they might.

  • by kawabago (551139) on Friday September 27, 2013 @02:11PM (#44973889)
    Someone with enough knowledge to commit this crime can't possibly hide behind autism as an excuse. This person formed intent, then a plan and executed the plan uncounted times. He communicated his intentions quite well which doesn't really point to autism. This young man is a sexual predator and probably always will be. Autism doesn't make you a pervert either, you have do that on your own.
  • This is a bully. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SternisheFan (2529412) on Friday September 27, 2013 @02:15PM (#44973927)
    This is what bullying is, taking unfair advantage over someone else. In this case the suspect had enough knowledge to manipulate others computers, but not enough know-how to keep himself from handcuffs. Great! This 19 year old punk-ass is going to jail for (hopefully) a very long time, long term probation at the very least. I don't care that he's still in his 'teen' years, 18 is considered old enough to be considered an adult, and he will be tried as one.

    I applaud this brave young lady for standing up to this creep. She did the right thing.

    • Worse than a bully (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SirGarlon (845873) on Friday September 27, 2013 @02:23PM (#44974021)

      This is worse than bullying, it's sexual harassment and extortion.

      And I agree, Ms. Wolf did a courageous thing to stand up and present evidence so this lowlife could be stopped.

      • by timholman (71886)

        This is worse than bullying, it's sexual harassment and extortion.

        It may even be worse than that. He had lots of photos of underage girls, and that he told one of his victims that he didn't care how old his victims were.

        The Feds may pile on some child pornography charges once they examine all the evidence on his computers.

    • and that can be wore then doing jail time.

      • by SternisheFan (2529412) on Friday September 27, 2013 @02:57PM (#44974423)

        and that can be wor(s)e then doing jail time.

        Sex offender status for life, And yes, that kind of probation is far more stringent than regular probation, and regular probation is not fun. Even if he gets a no jail deal, breaking any of probation's rules is enough to get him sent to a real jail cell. He will have to report whenever he's told to, if he doesn't, jail. He will be monitored for drugs/alcohol. Failing a test means jail. He will have to report his living address whenever he moves (if his probation officer permits him to move). If he doesn't, jail. Any other type of crime he may commit in the future while on probation will carry a heavier than normal sentence. He was studying computer science in college, that career is now out the window, and he'll probably have to stay off computers as part of his probation, so he will probably re-offend.

        He has irrevocably changed the course of his very young and promising life, thinking he would never get caught. Lots of guys like him in jail who thought they were too good to get caught.

    • by CauseBy (3029989)

      "This is what bullying is, taking unfair advantage over someone else."

      That's also called "the free market". (Which is one reason why free markets are bad.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 27, 2013 @02:15PM (#44973933)

    He should join the NSA once he's out of jail. He has a bright future there.

  • Pfffft (Score:2, Interesting)

    by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993)

    Another criminal genius bites the dust!

    Actually what I think is the court should take into account is the fact that this person's brain is not developed yet which might lead him to do... that.. and think 1) it's a fine thing to do and 2) he'd get away with it.

    They do this in Europe- take the age and developmental stage of the defendant into account as it interacts with the defendants s crime.

    We live in a world of humans. Some young humans spontaneously think up criminal acts to engage in. This is always a

    • Re:Pfffft (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Valdrax (32670) on Friday September 27, 2013 @02:50PM (#44974335)

      Actually what I think is the court should take into account is the fact that this person's brain is not developed yet which might lead him to do... that.. and think 1) it's a fine thing to do and 2) he'd get away with it.

      He's 19. He is legally an adult and should have more than a well-enough developed brain to realize that sexually blackmailing women is wrong. Most people would easily grasp the concept years before.

      That knocks out #1, which is really the only relevant point because you don't deserve any leeway for thinking that it's okay to do something wrong so long as you don't get caught for it. Poor impulse control and an inattention to the consequences of one's actions at that age is the opposite of a mitigating factor.

      Everyone involved really ought to consider that before they put him in the no-rehab hell-on-earth called American prisons for 20 years and turn him into a REAL criminal.

      This isn't just some little ha-ha prank or delinquency. He broke into a person's computer, commandeered it for his own amusement, and then threatened the future life and career of a woman if she refused to degrade herself for his sick sexual entertainment. The first half? Maybe your argument holds water. The second? That IS being a real criminal. This was sexual assault in all but contact -- that same sort sexual self-gratification through the control and degradation of an unwilling party.

      I won't disagree that 20 years in the current system will do next to nothing to reform him or prepare him for better integration into society, but let's not pretend that he deserves to get special, kids-gloves attention just because the system is broken. What he did was flat out evil and deserves to be punished -- harshly -- by whatever standards we have as a society set for sexual predators and blackmailers. Because that is what he is.

      • by roc97007 (608802)

        Actually what I think is the court should take into account is the fact that this person's brain is not developed yet which might lead him to do... that.. and think 1) it's a fine thing to do and 2) he'd get away with it.

        He's 19. He is legally an adult and should have more than a well-enough developed brain to realize that sexually blackmailing women is wrong. Most people would easily grasp the concept years before.

        That knocks out #1, which is really the only relevant point because you don't deserve any leeway for thinking that it's okay to do something wrong so long as you don't get caught for it. Poor impulse control and an inattention to the consequences of one's actions at that age is the opposite of a mitigating factor.

        Agreed.

        What scares me a little was the article earlier this week where the government wants to consider people juveniles up to age 25. Different context, but I wonder when this thought process will spill into the criminal justice realm.

    • by aitikin (909209)

      Your liberal heart is ignoring the cynic that must be present as well. There's a high probability that this is NOT an autistic individual, merely a person who was diagnosed as autistic at the parents' wishes. This is a HUGE problem in America and one of the reasons that parents of truly autistic children have a hard time with the systems in place.

      My anecdotal evidence for my view point is the fact that the lady who lived at the end of the block I grew up on had a son. That son was not diagnosed by their

  • The perp will be out in 30 days so he can make the rounds on TV talk shows...
    • by roc97007 (608802)

      The perp will be out in 30 days so he can make the rounds on TV talk shows...

      If so, I'd be tempted to follow him around and heckle from the audience. On second thought, I almost certainly would have to wait in a long line to do this.

  • by ScottCooperDotNet (929575) on Friday September 27, 2013 @02:35PM (#44974181)

    If his initials were NSA, would you really be surprised by this?

    I can't be the only person who tapes over the camera in my laptop and disables it. Apparently my tin foil hat isn't tight enough, as I haven't unplugged the wires internally yet.

  • RAT Breeders (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CrashNBrn (1143981) on Friday September 27, 2013 @02:55PM (#44974393)
    ArsTechnica covered this "epidemic" in March.

    The article is slightly sensationalist, but interesting ... The Remote Administration Tool is the revolver of the Internet's Wild West. [arstechnica.com]

    Perhaps law enforcement has opened a can of worms... or monkeys... autistic monkeys.
  • by Jeff Flanagan (2981883) on Friday September 27, 2013 @03:13PM (#44974601)
    His whole plan just doesn't make sense. It relies on the victim to both have issues regarding nudity that cause them to actually believe that nude photos taken with a hacked computer are somehow blackmail material, and to also be willing to send far more explicit images or video for further blackmail purposes. The overlap of these sets has to be pretty small and only contain people with IQs below room temperature. As we see, not even a Miss Teen USA is that clueless.
  • by Apuleius (6901) on Friday September 27, 2013 @03:15PM (#44974625) Journal

    When an attractive young girl accidently shows more of herself than she wants to, you need to be conscientious and respectful and look away.

    When I show accidentally more of myself than I want to, you do not need to be respectful to look away. You will look away for your own sake, or what you see will be its own punishment.

    I think y'all know what I'm getting at. You've seen Clockwork Orange.

    • by Apuleius (6901)

      (And my low Slasdhdot UID should be proof enough that I am not speaking idly.)

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Friday September 27, 2013 @03:36PM (#44974833) Journal

    I agree with others that the autism excuse is a little too convenient. But what I wanted to mention is that anyone who says "I have a LOT more of these that are better quality" whether the goal is political, bragging at a share site, or the vilest of extortion, they're always lying. If they had better quality photos, they'd have shown them to you. If the creep is trying to extort based on one or two blurry low light screenshots, chances approach certainty that it's all he has.

  • Excuse of the day (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Austic my arse. Just another excuse. Darryl Hannah now claims to be autistic. A way into the limelight. This punk did wrong, period. But, if he IS autistic you can bet that he will probably get a short probation and fine.

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Friday September 27, 2013 @04:19PM (#44975311) Journal

    This was *not* about seeing naked girls. As we all know, there is more highly detailed porn on the internet than one person could experience in a lifetime. (Probably. I haven't, like, taken an inventory. But evidence indicates this is the case.)

    This was about control. It was very specifically about the feeling of control experienced when forcing someone to do an act they find disgusting.

    He wasn't trying to see his victims naked. He could have seen tens of thousands of girls naked for free on the internet. He was very specifically attempting to gain control over his victims, to make them do something that revolted them.

    I wonder how his lawyer is going to try to spin this.

  • He took pictures of a 17 year old.
    I'd expect that there are child pornography charges involved too, no?

  • by shikaisi (1816846) on Friday September 27, 2013 @11:10PM (#44977343)
    Pics or it didn't happen.

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