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6/24/2010
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Hacker Accused Of Video Extortion

The FBI says that female victims were spied on with their Web cams and pressured to provide explicit videos.

A 31-year-old resident of Santa Ana, California, was arrested earlier this week on charges that he hacked into computers, stole personal data on the machines and then demanded sexually explicit videos from female victims as a condition for not disseminating other explicit and personal data.

Luis Mijangos was arrested following a six-month FBI investigation that was conducted in conjunction with the Glendale, Calif., Police Department, the FBI said on Tuesday.

The FBI believes that Mijangos hacked into over 100 computers used by some 230 individuals, at least 44 of whom are minors.

"Mr. Mijangos is alleged to have exploited new technology to exert control over young women whom he extorted, and many who were unwitting victims," said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Steven M. Martinez said in a statement that praised the assistance provided by the Glendale Police Department.

The affidavit detailing the charges alleges that Mijangos induced people to download malware disguised as audio files of popular songs on peer-to-peer networks. Victims with vulnerable computers who downloaded the malware then lost control of their machines, allowing Mijangos to send infected instant messages to victims' friends and family that compromised some recipients' machines.

Having gained control over multiple computers, Mijangos is alleged to have threatened female victims with the release of explicit images and personal data he claimed to have obtained from their machines unless they agreed to create and provide more such images of themselves. He also allegedly threatened to release this private information if victims sought help from authorities.

Mijangos is alleged to have used his control of victims' computers to spy on them through their Web cams in an attempt to capture additional explicit images, sometimes successfully.

The affidavit claims that Mijangos installed keylogging software on victims' machines, which allowed him to capture credit card numbers and to use that information to make fraudulent purchases.

Mijangos is alleged to have furthered his extortion scheme by using information he gained to hack the e-mail accounts of victims' boyfriends and then to impersonate those boyfriends online to ask the female victims to create explicit videos of themselves. Having obtained those videos, he is alleged to have contacted these victims under an alias to demand further explicit videos, threatening to release the existing videos if his demands weren't met.

According to the FBI, Mijangos acknowledged hacking into computers when the FBI arrived at his residence to execute a search warrant. But he justified his actions by claiming that the boyfriends and husbands of the female victims had asked for his involvement to determine whether the women were being unfaithful.

The FBI also said that Mijangos admitted his involvement with an international network of hackers and with credit card fraud.

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The cybersecurity profession struggles to retain women (figures range from 10 to 20 percent). It's particularly worrisome for an industry with a rapidly growing number of vacant positions.

So why does the shortage of women continue to be worse in security than in other IT sectors? How can men in infosec be better allies for women; and how can women be better allies for one another? What is the industry doing to fix the problem -- what's working, and what isn't?

Is this really a problem at all? Are the low numbers simply an indication that women do not want to be in cybersecurity, and is it possible that more women will never want to be in cybersecurity? How many women would we need to see in the industry to declare success?

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