Hackers using webcams to spy on women in their homes
Hackers are using webcams to spy on people in their own homes, an investigation has revealed.
Young girls have been targeted by people hacking their computers to gain access to their webcams.
Hackers send out an internet virus that allows them to access a victim’s desktop or computer without their knowledge.
In the process called "ratting", they then switch on the victim’s webcam and watch them in the privacy of their own homes.
A BBC Radio 5 Live investigation found there is even a profitable underground market selling the ability to watch victims, who are dubbed "slaves", for a few pounds.
Paedophiles are also using the technique to target children who have computers in their bedrooms.
They trick the victim into downloading a piece of software on to their computer which is usually done via an email link.
The links look like they lead to pictures, music or even diet tips and celebrity stories.
Once installed, the 'remote administration tool' (RAT) software allows hackers to take control of the machine at any time.
Hackers can then access the hard drive and any personal files saved on to the computer.
A 16-year-old from London called "John" told investigators he had hacked more than 100 computers - using the webcams to view the victims on about half of them.
He said: “I wasn't really looking for anything, just their reactions. I'd open random sites [while the person sat at their computer] - shock sites - they'd see a scary picture or someone screaming, and you'd see they were scared.
“There are creepy people who post pictures of female slaves. I'm not really into that. Yeah, it is illegal. But the risk of getting caught isn't that much. It's just a bit of a laugh.'
Matthew Anderson, 36, was jailed for 18 months after he was found guilty of infecting more than 200,000 computers with a virus that allowed their webcams to be hacked.
The father-of-five, from Banffshire, Scotland, had watched dozens of women in their own homes, including girls as young as 16. He boasted to fellow international hackers he watched a teenager and her sister for hours and lamented how she had not got naked in front of him.
Tony Neate, of the Government's Get Safe Online campaign, said: “As more cases of "ratting" come to light, there is a serious need to educate the public about the methods hackers use to access the private lives of innocent people.
“The most at-risk computers are those running older software, and those without up-to-date anti-virus software installed.”
There is a range of ways to prevent being spied on, experts said. Covering the webcam with a piece of paper and installing anti-virus software will prevent most hacking attempts and delete RATs.
The Association of Chief Police Officers said: “Police have come across webcam hacking through cyber investigations. Any unauthorised intrusion into an individual's computer is an offence under the Computer Misuse Act.”