Jared James Abrahams, Alleged International Sextortion Hacker, Has Family That's Sorry
See the update on Page 2 with more about the suspect--and an apology--followed by tips to avoid becoming a sextortion victim.
ORIGINAL POST, SEPT. 26, 1:57 P.M.: Remember Luis Mijangos, the wheelchair-bound Santa Anan who idolized Marvel Comics superhero Professor X and was convicted of using his advanced hacking skills to infect the computers of 44 girls and 186 women he blackmailed into sending him sexually explicit videos of themselves?
Federal authorities say they have found Mijangos' match--19-year-old Jared James Abrahams of Temecula--and again there is an Orange County connection, as well as to Miss California Teen USA.
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Abrahams, a college student down there in Bachelorette Wine Country Partyland, allegedly extorted young women into sending him nude photos or videos of themselves or engaging in nasty Skype sessions. He was scheduled to appear this afternoon before Judge Jean P. Rosenbluth at the federal courthouse in Santa Ana.
Among his alleged victims is a young women who had the images taken at her then-home in Orange County, according to the complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Central District of California.
An 18-year-old woman, identified in the complaint as "C.W.," alerted the FBI in March after receiving an alert from a social networking site advising of a failed attempt to change her password. She later discovered her passwords had been changed on multiple online accounts and that one online profile featured a half-nude picture of her she did not authorize. She passed along to the feds an e-mail that offered her the choice of complying with the anonymous hacker or having her nude photographs posted "all over the Internet."
In one instance, C.W. was threatened with having her "dream of being a model" transformed "into a porn star" if she did not comply, reads the complaint.
Cassidy Wolf on Today last month.
Although the bureau won't confirm the identities of sex-crime victims, C.W. is more than likely Cassidy Wolf, Miss California Teen USA, who confirmed she was a victim of sextortion on NBC's Today show in August and has since dedicated her reign to helping other victims.
"I was just a normal girl in high school," she explained to the show's hosts at the time. "This next year I'm just so excited to be able to share my story and raise awareness in young teens about what can happen."
She warned this could happen to anyone.
"I wasn't aware that somebody was watching me [on my webcam]," she said on Today. "The light [on the camera] didn't even go on, so I had no idea."
The subsequent FBI investigation after C.W.'s complaint traced the e-mails back to Abrahams, and for the next several months he was tracked hacking into multiple victims' online accounts via malicious software and tools to disguise his identity, according to the complaint.
He sent anonymous emails to some females he knew and others he did not know threatening to publish embarrassing images he'd captured on webcams if they did not send him nude selfies or videos of themselves to him, the feds allege. Another option Abrahams is alleged to have offered are the naughty Skype sessions.
A search of the computer in Abrahams' residence in June uncovered hacking software, images and videos of some victims as well as malware and remote administration tools employed the domain name "cutefuzzypuppy," according to court documents. The same domain name was linked to discussion boards in hacker forums by a participant researching, among other things, ways to spread malware and control webcams, the complaint alleges.
Abrahams is accused of victimizing other women in Southern California as well as Maryland, Ireland, Canada, Russia and Moldova, according to the complaint. At least one victim is said to be a minor.
An Irish victim, identified in the complaint only as M.M. #1, is said to have written to the hacker, "I'm downloading Skype now. Please remember I'm only 17. Have a heart." The reply? "I'll tell you this right now! I do NOT have a heart!!! However I do stick to my deals! Also age doesn't mean a thing to me!!!" It may to a federal jury, however.
The feds claim that during an interview, Abrahams acknowledged he: infected victim's computers with malware; watched his victims in states of undress; and used photographs to extort his victims, among other admissions.
Investigators believe there may be women out there who Abrahams victimized but have not been identified by prosecutors. If you believe that's you, contact the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office at 310.477.6565. The feds note the charge of extortion carries a statutory maximum penalty of 2 years in federal prison, but that time can be compounded with each offense that brings a conviction.
On the next page, an update on Jared James Abrahams' surrender, first court appearance and apology. That's followed by FBI tips on ways to avoid becoming a sextortion victim.
UPDATE, SEPT. 27, 10:47 A.M.: After the unsealing of a federal criminal complaint charging Jared James Abrahams with extortion, the 19-year-old, flanked by his attorney and mother, surrendered to FBI agents in Orange.
Jared James Abrahams
He then made his initial court appearance Thursday afternoon at the federal courthouse in Santa Ana, where U.S. District Judge Jean Rosenbluth set bail at $50,000 and, if the defendant makes it, required him to wear a GPS ankle monitor and remain confined to his home.
But Rosenbluth also struggled with an order that Abrahams stay away from computers because of his skills and how "ubiquitous" Internet-connected devices have become, City News Service reports.
"What he did was very serious," explained the judge of what amounted to "worldwide compromising of minors' privacy." The FBI investigation claims Abrahams at one time had 100 to 150 "slave computers" around the world that he had allegedly hacked into and controlled remotely.
Abrahams' father vowed to get rid of all computers in their home, and the defendant's mother told the judge she's home all day and can monitor her son, who is due back in court Nov. 4 for possible arraignment.
Defense attorney Alan Eisner appeared before news media cameras after the hearing to apologize on behalf of Abrahams' family, who "want to express their profound regret and remorse for his behavior. They acknowledge the harm to the victims and the victims' families."
Eisner explained is client received some treatment for his autism before the alleged incidents took place.
The FBI included the following information with the announcement of Jared Abrahams' arrest:
Sextortion: Sextortion is a type of extortion and/or blackmail of a victim. Typically, the victim is extorted and/or blackmailed with a nude image of the victim. The person committing the sextortion threatens to release the nude image publicly unless the victim, among other things, performs a sexual act. The person committing the sextortion is typically threatening to harm the reputation of the victim by disclosing the nude image.
Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Sextortion:
* Be prudent when posting images online, especially private or compromising content. Once an image or information is on the web, you cannot get it back. This goes for computers, phones, tablets and other forms of wireless communication.
* If your computer has been compromised and you are receiving extortionate threats, don't be afraid to talk to your parents or to call law enforcement. The situation is not likely to get better, but may get worse.
* Ensure your password is difficult for others to figure out. It's wise to use a combination of upper and lower case letters; numbers and symbols.
* Intrusions take many forms, including the unwitting compliance of the computer user. Don't assume your computer's anti-virus software can safeguard against all intrusions; however always use reliable anti-virus software and keep the definitions up to date.
* Turn off your computer when you aren't using it. (The majority of computers involved in sextortion cases are laptops; many of the victims chat on social networks so much that they never turn off their machines.)
* Cover your webcam when not in use. A webcam can be controlled remotely if a computer has been compromised.
* Don't open attachments without independently verifying that they were sent from someone you know. Unsolicited email messages can contain malware that can infiltrate your computer so a hacker can obtain personal information and/or images, even those you have not posted online.
* Be a responsible Internet user: do not talk to strangers on the Internet, or give strangers personal information or images.
* It's okay to be suspicious. If you receive a message with an attachment from your mother at 3 a.m., maybe the message is not really from your mother.
Visit http://www.fbi.gov to learn more.
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