Sextortion of Miss Teen USA Leads to FBI Arrest of 19-Year-Old Hacker
"Sextortion" is now a buzzword, no thanks to 19-year-old Jared James Abrahams, who surrendered and was arrested by the FBI yesterday under charges of extortion surrounding a seriously creepy webcam-hacking scam involving Miss Teen USA. Abrahams, a freshman computer science student, hacked into young womens' laptop webcams using malware, (creepily using the name 'cutefuzzypuppy'). Once Abrahams was in, he would use Skype to film or photograph women getting undressed at night, sometimes taking thousands of pictures.
The victims would then receive an email from someone they didn't know. Nude photos of them were attached, and they'd be informed that unless they sent Abrahams more nude pictures or, um, "performed" for him on Skype, those pictures would be released.
One of Abraham's victims was none other than 2013 Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf, who was a classmate with Abrahams at their Temecula, California high school (they graduated together in 2012).
Wolf logged on to Twitter one day to find a half-naked picture of herself as her profile picture. Her other social media sites had also been broken into. Then she got an anonymous email with two more nude photos of herself. The sender said he would post them online unless she: “1) sent nude photographs, 2) sent a nude video, or 3) logged onto Skype and did what Abrahams told [her] to do for five minutes,” according to the FBI complaint.
If Wolf didn't, Abrahams continued, he would "transform [her] dream of being a model into a pornstar."
"I started screaming, bawling my eyes out," Wolf said on the Today show last month. "I was on the phone with my mom, and I felt helpless because I wasn't sure what to do."
Wolf and her mother contacted the FBI in March. They were the first of Abrahams' victims (who included young women as far away as Ireland, Moldova, and Russia) to contact authorities. It's not yet known how many more women Abrahams blackmailed, but over the course of the scam, the suspect used 30 to 40 computers and different anonymous email addresses. The FBI is working on identifying additional victims.
This isn't the first 'sextortion' scandal involving nude photos: Last December, 35-year-old Christopher Chaney was sentenced to 10 years in a federal prison for hacking into celebrities' computers and stealing nude pictures from Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis, and Christina Aguilera.
The difference, in those cases, is that the celebrities had taken those photos themselves. In this case, victims were unaware they were being photographed using Skype.
Abrahams has been released on a $50,000 bond and now has a computer installed with monitoring software. He's been ordered to wear a monitoring bracelet, and is not allowed to use a smartphone. Abrahams is banned from leaving his home, except to go to school until his Nov. 4 arraignment. If he's convicted, he faces up to two years in federal prison.