Computer viruses called Trojan horses can harm more than just your computer. They can also destroy your personal life.
When 17-year-old Hector Hernandez’s computer was infected with a Trojan horse, it enabled hackers to access his webcam and record scandalous videos without the teen’s knowledge. The hackers then blackmailed Hernandez, threatening to share the videos with his Facebook friends if he didn’t pay up. This led the teen to steal his parents’ valuables to sell at a local pawn shop.
Hernandez finally admitted his actions to his parents, but not before pawning a reported $100,000 worth of jewelry and wiring the money to the hackers. Here’s how this unfortunate event occurred and how you can protect yourself from online blackmail scams.
RATs: The Newest Reason to Fear Hackers
The blackmailers were able to access Hernandez’s computer because he’d downloaded a RAT, or Remote Access Tool, onto his computer without knowing it. Hackers are increasingly savvy about how to get people to unknowingly give their “permission” to have their webcams accessed through a website. Often, they’ll code an invisible “agree” button over something a user is likely to click on, such as a “play video” button, and suddenly a complete stranger has access to your webcam.
This, or something similar, is what happened to Hector Hernandez. Then, after recording embarrassing video footage through the teen’s webcam, the blackmailers messaged him on Facebook and demanded money on three occasions.
Panicked, Hernandez pawned his parents’ jewelry and sent $1700 to the Philippines per their instructions.
Yet the demands kept coming. After the fourth demand for money, Hernandez caved and told his parents. Here’s what the local Fox News station reports:
“‘So angry. I’m disappointed with him,’ his mother, Lilia Hernandez says. But the pair hug it, both devastated and hoping to put an end to the situation.
The most recent post came on Sunday. But now that Hernandez’s parents know what’s going on no more money will be sent out. They are in the process of trying to get their valuables back.”
Defend Yourself from Webcam-Hacking & Blackmail
Thanks to increasingly clever hacking techniques, it’s harder to protect your privacy against webcam hackers. Yet there is one very simple, low-tech solution for webcam hackers: put tape over the lens of your webcam when you’re not using it!
If you have an external webcam, unplug it when not in use. If you’re not using your laptop, close it.
But you’re looking for a more elegant, tech-savvy fix, you can also disable your webcam in hardware preferences. For added security, TechCrunch recommends adding a no-scripts plugin to your web browser, such as such as NoScript for Firefox.
Protect Yourself From Computer Viruses: Scan Your Computer Regularly
We can learn from this unfortunate tale. It’s important to keep your computer antivirus software up-to-date and scan your computer regularly with antivirus software to catch malware and viruses before it’s too late. If you’re having trouble with a potential virus, then consult a tech-savvy friend or a professional.
What do you think? Have you ever had a Trojan horse virus infect your computer? What did you do to get rid of it? Let us know in the comments section!