Inside the Mind of Luis Mijangos, Sextortion Hacker "Mistah X"

January's GQ has a fascinating piece on a fellow who turned up in our crime coverage the past couple years: Luis Mijangos, the so-called "sextortion" hacker out of Santa Ana sentenced Sept. 1 to six years in prison for cyber-terrorism.

The 32-year-old undocumented immigrant hacked into dozens of computers to obtain personal data--and in some cases demanded sexually explicit videos from females lest he email their boyfriends the lie that the women willingly sent him risque images he actually obtained on the sly.

Mijangos, who has been confined to a wheelchair since getting caught in gang crossfire as a teen, was obsessed with the X-Men character Professor X, so much so that his handle with the people he sextorted was "Mistah X." In "The Hacker is Watching," David Kushner writes that Amy Wright, a 20-year-old brunette at UC Irvine, was on her laptop when she got an IM from mistahxxxrightme asking for webcam sex. When Wright told the stranger off, Mistah X IM'd back that he knew all about her, describing her dorm room, the color of her walls, the pattern on her sheets, the pictures on her walls. "You have a pink vibrator," he wrote before posting a shot of her in that very room, naked on the bed, having webcam sex with her boyfriend James Kelly.

Mistah X also IM'd Kelly's ex-girlfriend Carla Gagnon with a video still of her in the nude, as well as an online boast that he had control of Kelly's computer. The couple complained to campus police, who were powerless. The task of hunting down Mistah X/Luis Mijangos fell to agents FBI agents Tanith Rogers and Jeff Kirkpatrick of the FBI's cyber program in Los Angeles. Portrayed by Kushner as "the unit's own Mulder and Scully," the tech-savvy agents began with their only link to the hacker, his email account obtained from his Internet provider. With that, the feds tracked Mijangos' communication with dozens of other victims before tracking him to his Santa Ana home. 

Anyone else feel better about that anonymous email they sent their ex- one booze-fueled night?

The agents managed to get a photo of Mijangos, put his home under surveillance and discovered he had drifted from somewhat harmless to criminal hacking.

He wasn't getting rich, but Mijangos says he earned enough to buy a $5,000 titanium wheelchair that he tricked out with $400 wheels. He felt reborn. "When it comes to hacking, yes, I'm not going to deny it--it's like you feel like you accomplish something," he says. "Like you feel proud of doing something that not many people can do." In the early days of cybercrime, hackers had to code their software from scratch, but as he searched the Web, Mijangos found dozens of programs, with names like SpyNet and Poison Ivy, available cheaply, if not free. They allowed him to access someone's desktop but limited the number of computers he could control simultaneously. Bragging to his peers, Mijangos says he found a way to modify an existing program that supported roughly thirty connections so that it could handle up to 600 computers at once.

He decided to peep out a hacked computer's camera while the Latina user was away from the keyboard--and eventually watcher her, in her bedroom, singing and dancing as she vacuumed the floor, completely unaware that he was watching.

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