[UPDATED] Luis Mijangos Guilty of Being Sextortion Hacker
The 32-year-old paraplegic and Mexican national, who fancied himself an evil Professor X from the X-Men series, pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court to intentionally accessing a computer without authorization and illegally intercepting an oral or wire communication, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.
Those charges carry a maximum of 10 years in federal prison and a $500,000 fine. U.S. District Judge George H. King scheduled sentencing for Aug. 8.
UPDATE, JULY 19, 2010, 6:37 P.M.: Luis Mijangos pleaded not guilty to 16 federal federal charges, including conspiracy, mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, extortion, wiretapping and other counts. U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles F. Eick in downtown Los Angeles set an Aug. 9 status conference in the case.
In the Marvel Comics' world, Charles Francis Xavier is the leader and founder of the X-Men, and--although a paraplegic--as Professor X, he possesses the world's most powerful mutant mind, giving him the ability to read, control and influence human minds.
The 31-year-old got popped by the feds last month for allegedly hacking into dozens of computers, obtaining personal data about people using those computers, and then demanding sexually explicit videos from girls and women in exchange for keeping their personal information private.
He is scheduled to be indicted today.
Between his arrest and today, we've learned some things other than the Professor X obsession about Mijangos and his case:
- Mijangos was confined to a wheelchair after being wounded in a gang shooting.
- There's a nickname for the type of crime Mijangos--whom the feds claim victimized at least 44 girls and 186 women--is alleged to have committed. It's unclear if the Los Angeles Times coined it, but the paper is publicizing it: "sextortion."
- The Times' Andrew Blankstein looked at the 23-page criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles by the FBI and reports Mijangos allegedly sent an email to a victim in which he attached a nude picture of her. "I will publish the images and let your family know about your dark side," he reportedly threatened, "so you better do that video, send it to me via email, and you will never hear from me ever."
- Mijangos used peer-to-peer networks to infect computers around the world with malicious computer code.
- He induced victims to download the malware onto their computers by making the files appear to be popular songs.
- After the victims downloaded the malware, he was able to control their computers, allowing him to send instant messages containing malware from those computers to other people in the victims' address books. These later victims thought they were receiving messages from friends or family members.
- Once he had control of a computer, Mijangos searched for sexually explicit or intimate images and videos of women, typically young women and girls in various states of undress or engaged in sexual acts with their partners.
- He contacted the female victims, informing them that he was in possession of intimate images and videos and threatening to distribute those stolen images and videos to every addressee in the victims' contact lists unless they made additional videos for him.
- He also told his victims that, because he controlled their computers, he would know if they attempted to contact the authorities, and he threatened to retaliate against them by releasing the images and videos if they called the police.
- He told one victim that she did not want to "mess" with a team of hackers.
- He installed a "keylogger" on victims' computers that allowed him to record every key that was struck on the keyboards of the infected computers. Because the users of those compromised computers were unaware that their computers had been infected, they continued to use their computers to engage in commercial and social activities.
- He used the keylogger to steal credit-card numbers and personal identifying information that he used to engage in identity theft and to purchase merchandise.
- He used stolen usernames and passwords to access victims' email and social-networking sites to further his extortion scheme.
- After hacking email accounts belonging to victims' boyfriends, Mijangos contacted women and teenage girls and, pretending to be their boyfriends, asked them to create pornographic videos for him. Once he had those videos, Mijangos again contacted the victims, this time using an alias, to demand more pornographic videos under threats of distributing the videos previously sent to him.
- With his control of the victims' computers and all of their functions, he was able to remotely access victims' webcams and to turn them on from time to time in an attempt to catch the victims in intimate situations. Occasionally, he was successful.
- Mijangos infected more than 100 computers.
The FBI says that at the time a search warrant was served at his residence, Mijangos allegedly acknowledged that he hacked into computers, but he claimed he did so at the request of boyfriends and husbands who sought to determine whether the women were cheating on them.
He is also said to have admitted asking for additional sexual videos, but only to determine whether the women would actually do it.
Mijangos conceded he was involved with an international network of hackers and that he participated in credit-card fraud, according to the bureau.
His arrest on suspicion of extortion, a felony that carries a statutory maximum penalty of two years in federal prison, came after a two-year investigation by the FBI's cyber squad.
The bureau was tipped by the Glendale Police Department, which received a complaint from a victim and quickly realized a sophisticated computer hacker possibly preyed on a number of victims.