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.
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.
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.
Today Cassidy Wolf on Today last month.
"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.