Many have either claimed or speculated that one way the NSA and other U. spy agencies got around the prohibition of spying on Americans was to let a third party do it for them. News reports, based on the leaks of NSA information by Edward Snowden, say that GCHQ stored millions of images gleaned from its webcam surveillance.
According to the New York Times, the Australian Signals Directorate tapped a U. law firm representing Indonesian interests and offered their intercepts to the NSA. These images can be retrieved in various ways, including the use of advanced face recognition systems, so seemingly unrelated video chats from different computers and with different names or web addresses, can be linked together.
In addition to being a remote voyeur, the hacker may also become an extortionist -- threatening to reveal embarrassing secrets to a romantic partner or, in the case of a teenager, a parent, unless money is provided or additional intimate photos or videos are shared.Or, such a scheme may begin with a seemingly innocuous online "friend" request, or a comment by a chat room buddy.Marcus Thomas, a former assistant director of the FBI's Operational Technology Division in Quantico, Virginia, tells the Washington Post that the FBI could spy on anyone's webcam without turning on the camera's indicator light.While not all webcams have indicator lights, and many laptops do not have them at all, the indicator light is a nice security feature that tells you when the camera is active.Now, however, all that is necessary is a computer, and an online identity can hide the perpetrator's true identity.
Today, a blackmail or extortion plan may begin with a hacker's getting into an Internet user's pc and searching for embarrassing nude photos or messages.Extortion and blackmail have been around for centuries--but now, they've gone online.Once, a would-be blackmailer or extortionist would have to physically trail and spy on his or her victim, risking being spotted.It's one thing to read the Dalai Lama's IM conversations. Ghost Net might be the most prominent example yet of webcam infiltration, but it's certainly not the first.The practice dates back to 1998, when a group of hackers calling itself the Cult of the Dead Cow designed a piece of software that, when downloaded onto a computer, let someone control the machine remotely.Many of the images obtained were very personal ones and could be used to either embarrass or blackmail users.