A 20-year-old computer technician working as a Mac repairman was arrested by police in southern California on Wednesday for allegedly installing spyware on laptops that he fixed, thereby enabling him to gain control of the computer’s webcam and remotely take photos of women in various states of undress.
According to a report in the LA Times, Trevor Harwell worked for a computer company called Rezitech Ltd and helped people in Los Angeles and Orange County homes who were having problems with a Mac computer.
“While he had physical access to the computers, he would install a spyware-type application that allowed him remote access to the user’s computer and webcam,” Fullerton police sergeant Andrew Goodrich said in the LA Times. He continued: “Once he had access, he would take photographs of the users, usually women. Often, the female victims were undressed or changing clothes.”
Hundreds of thousands of images are believed to be involved in the investigation, the police department said. Harwell is alleged to have sent what appeared to be system messages to his victims’ computers. One read: “You should fix your internal sensor soon. If unsure what to do, try putting your laptop near hot steam for several minutes to clean the sensor.” According to the LA Times report, many women would then move their laptop to the bathroom while they took a shower.
The suspect is a former student of Biola University in southern California and, according to Goodrich, many victims studied there. Police are now looking into whether Harwell gained access to the university’s internal network.
Police were first alerted to Harwell’s alleged activities last year when a resident of Fullerton in Orange County contacted them after becoming suspicious about messages appearing on a computer belonging to his daughter.