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Man charged with malware 'sextortion' plot

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Federal prosecutors have accused a man of hacking into scores of computers and using the personal information he found to extort sexually explicit videos from female victims, many of whom were juveniles.

Luis Mijangos, 31, of Santa Ana, California, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with extortion, according to court documents. Investigators who searched his home found dozens of videos that appeared to be shot from the web cams of infected PCs. They “showed the unknowing victim in some sort of undress (ie getting out of the shower, dressing for the day, having sex with a partner)”, according to an affidavit filed in the case. Many of the victims remain unidentified and appear to be juveniles.

According to prosecutors, Mijangos used peer-to-peer file-sharing networks to infect his victims, inducing them to download and double-click on executable files that were disguised as popular songs. Once he gained control of a PC, the independent software consultant would rifle through the hard drive for intimate images and other incriminating data, which he would use to extort sexually explicit videos from the victims, court documents allege.

“You have three kids and a psycho ex but hat [sic] I don't care if you don't want this pics and the rest I have from you to be publsihed [sic] this is what I want,” he wrote in a demand to a victim identified only as K.S. “A porn video of you 'you can blur your face;' if don't get the video ina day I will publish thse [sic] images and let your family know about your dark side as a hooker.”

In other cases, Mijangos allegedly contacted women posing as their boyfriends and asked them to create pornographic videos for him. Once he succeeded, he would demand more sexually explicit videos under threats of publicly distributing the previously sent images, the documents, filed in US District Court in Los Angeles, claimed.

Mijangos allegedly used the hijacked computer of one person to infect her friends. Many of the victims reported being infected after clicking on files sent by friends over instant messaging programs. Once a PC was hijacked, he would frequently turn on its web cam and capture video of people in the room, prosecutors alleged. He allegedly installed key-loggers on hijacked computers as well, which he used to steal credit card numbers and other personal information.

During an FBI raid on his home, Mijangos allegedly admitted that he hacked into computers and asked for sexually explicit videos, but he said he did so at the direction of boyfriends and husbands who sought to find out if the women were cheating on them. He also admitted he was part of an underground gang of hackers and participated in credit card fraud.

In all, he allegedly infected more than 100 computers used by approximately 230 individuals, at least 44 of whom were juveniles, prosecutors said.

If convicted, Mijangos faces a maximum of two years in federal prison. He has not been charged with the manufacture or possession of child pornography or crimes involving identity theft or the theft of credit card numbers. He is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday afternoon and has yet to enter a plea. ®

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