32-year-old Luis Mijangos was sentenced to six year in prison this week by a U.S. District Court judge in California after pleading guilty to one count of computer hacking and one count of wiretapping in March 2011. Mijangos, a resident of Santa Ana, California, worked as a freelance web designer and developer earning about $52,000 a year, but also spent his days using malware to gain access to people’s computers and extorting up to $3,000 a day from his victims. FBI experts in computer forensics estimated that Mijangos infected more than 100 computers used by over 230 people, 20 percent which were juveniles.
Mijangos worked with other criminals they he met over IRC to perfect malware that was undetectable by antivirus software. The malware was disguised as links to video or music to hide remote-access tools such as SpyNet and Poison Ivy. Through these programs, Mijangos was able to search computers for intimate or sexually-explicit photos of the women using the computers as well as watch the users of the computer through a webcam and listen through a built-in microphone.
Mijangos would then contact the victim to demand money or explicit videos from them and threaten to distribute the existing photos to family and friends if they contacted the police. Mijangos also hacked into the email account of the boyfriend of a juvenile in order to request sexually-explicit photos or video from the female juvenile and subsequently threaten to expose them for more explicit material.
Beyond the many attempts of sextortion, Mijangos also installed keyloggers on the victim’s accounts to steal credit card numbers to purchase various electronics and other items. Many of the victims involved in the case spoke out at the sentencing trial to stress the damage caused by the disturbing psychological games that Mijangos forced upon them. Before pleading guilty to the charges, Mijangos told police that he was hired by husbands or boyfriends of the victims that were suspicious of cheating.
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