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Police Say Mac Tech Installed Spyware To Photo Women 235

CWmike writes "He was hired to fix their computers, but police say that Trevor Harwell instead installed spyware software that took candid photos of his clients in various states of undress. Harwell had been a Macintosh specialist with a Los Angeles-area home computer repair company called Rezitech. That's how he allegedly had the opportunity to install the spy software, called Camcapture, on computers. While working on repair assignments, the 20-year-old technician secretly set up a complex system that could notify him whenever it was ready to snap a shot using the computer's webcam, according to Sergeant Andrew Goodrich, a spokesman with the Fullerton Police Department in California. 'It would let his server know that the victim's machine was on. The server would then notify his smartphone... and then the images were recorded on his home computer,' he said. Police say they've found thousands of images on Harwell's computers and have identified dozens of victims, all of them women in Los Angeles and Orange County. Harwell was arrested Wednesday by Fullerton police." But was he a good repairman?
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Police Say Mac Tech Installed Spyware To Photo Women

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  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday June 09, 2011 @09:28AM (#36387084)

    This guy was a rogue and clearly not following Apple policy. Apple states explicitly in their policy manual that spying on customers in any way--through their webcam, microphone, user accounts, etc.--is strictly prohibited for all Apple employees except Steve Jobs.

    • Note that the above policy does not extend to locations visited while using iOS.

    • I hope you'll be here all week. By the way, how's the veal?

      Even the summary sounds like he wasn't an Apple employee, just a Mac repairman for some not-Apple repair company.

      • by sakdoctor ( 1087155 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @09:39AM (#36387232) Homepage

        An unordained repairman tried to fix a mac?

        • by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @09:47AM (#36387330)

          An unordained repairman tried to fix a mac?

          Not ordained, but he did attend a Christian university. FTFA:

          Harwell was formerly a student at Biola University, a small Christian university in southern California. Many of the victims were Biola students and Harwell may have compromised university systems as well, police said.

        • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *

          A non-initiate dares touch holy hardware?!? Dispatch the iAssassins.

        • ...but he was a Genius! *rimshot*

    • by somersault ( 912633 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @09:41AM (#36387256) Homepage Journal

      When I got my first Macbook I used to be pretty paranoid about this kind of thing. Moreso because I had Skype set up to receive calls from people, but I also thought stuff like this would be a possibility. I wonder if the little light next to the camera is hardwired to come on when the camera is in use, or whether it can be disabled in software..?

  • Insert inappropriate weiner joke []
    • They can put him on the committees that supervise the NSA pen registers, RealID, biometric passports, FBI, etc.

      And the sargent came over, pinned a medal on me, sent me down the hall, said, "You're our boy."

  • Job skills (Score:5, Funny)

    by i.r.id10t ( 595143 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @09:30AM (#36387114)

    Apparently he is qualified to work for one of the school boards in Pennsylvania

    • Re:Job skills (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rbrausse ( 1319883 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @09:52AM (#36387394)

      the funny thing is that this guy was arrested but the Lower Merion spokesman could react with a complete waste of the taxpayer's dollars [] after the district was sued...

      • There is a difference between the school spying on its students and a pervert installing software on female clients computers to get naked images of them. Sure, what was done in Pennsylvania was a violation of privacy, but the school board wasn't after pictures of the victims undressing.
        • Sure, what was done in Pennsylvania was a violation of privacy, but the school board wasn't after pictures of the victims undressing.

          They say.

          • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

            Well, what one wonders is why this guy got caught? Did he actually have it upload pics to his own account? Did he fail to create a nightly launchd job that delayed an arbitrary number of days (from a month to six months) before enabling his background daemon? Did he brag about it on Facebook? Did he post the pictures somewhere? Where? No, wait.... I mean where did he hide the daemon? Or was it an application (obvious)?

            Inquiring perverts^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hminds want to know.

            • Re:Job skills (Score:5, Informative)

              by Tarsir ( 1175373 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @11:23AM (#36388500)

              Well, what one wonders is why this guy got caught?

              He also had the laptop pop fake warning messages saying that the laptop was malfunctioning, and that putting it near hot steam might clear up the issue. This prompted many victims to take the computer into their washrooms while they showered.

              Eventually someone brought their computer to a MacStore instead, and the tech there found the spyware.

              • by d3ac0n ( 715594 )

                He also had the laptop pop fake warning messages saying that the laptop was malfunctioning, and that putting it near hot steam might clear up the issue. This prompted many victims to take the computer into their washrooms while they showered.

                Eventually someone brought their computer to a MacStore instead, and the tech there found the spyware.

                So, he's horny, criminal AND stupid. Never a good combination.

              • My god, I thought you were joking.... then I read TFA. This man... this man is a genius.

          • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
            The feds think its better to ensure the safe roll out of cams in state 'gifted' laptops than let the limited press surrounding one school district upset the web 2.0 version of a super "pen recorder".
            Think of the good the cams can do as more and more impressionable young people self radicalize in the privacy of their own homes.
            The feds can passively get pics, video and sound as lone wolves transform into home-grown cells and connect up with more like minded people.
            Meeting with their free networked laptop
        • by Toonol ( 1057698 )
          On the other hand, he didn't target the underaged; the school district did. And, it sounds like the school district had MORE images saved.
  • Hot Steam (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RazzleFrog ( 537054 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @09:33AM (#36387150)

    It had been popping up weird messages. One of them, designed to look like a Mac OS X system warning, said, "You should fix your internal sensor soon. If unsure what to do, try putting your laptop near hot steam for several minutes to clean the sensor."

    Now that is creative. Had to be some mighty dumb women who fell for that.

    • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @09:38AM (#36387216)

      Warning, excessive static buildup detected. Attempt to discharge through touching elbows behind back.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 09, 2011 @09:40AM (#36387236)

      Some victims, tricked by the pop-up warning, did take their computers with them into the shower, Goodrich said.

      That's pure genius. Evil genius, but genius nevertheless.

    • Yeah, that's the detail that really made the story for me.

      I mean, sure, this whole thing is creepy and wrong, but going beyond snapping pictures to trying to trick the women to taking their laptops into the shower? That's one for the ages.

      • by d3ac0n ( 715594 )

        The fact that in (apparently) several cases it actually worked is what's really amazing.

    • There used to be an awesome tool for Appletalk networks made up of Mac OS machines called Radiation. You installed the CDEV on your machine and the INIT on other machines. You used the CDEV to cause error messages to pop up on other machines. IIRC the default was "The radiation shield on your monitor has failed. Please step back five feet."

    • As if it wasn't creepy enough.
      • I'm sorry to say that I don't get the creepy factor here. The number one fantasy of guys (that ALL straight guys have had) is to be invisible in a women's locker room. This is basically someone trying to achieve that fantasy through technology. Yes, it was wrong. But still, the amount of harm done here just isn't so great IMO. Sorry. As long has he wasn't spreading the photos around with names and information, blackmailing the participants, etc, then it's just some guy getting a thrill trying to peak

    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      They probably had seen those Microsoft commercials: To the cloud!

  • by Coraon ( 1080675 )
    Pic's or it didn't happen
  • by Madman ( 84403 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @09:34AM (#36387164) Homepage

    I don't know if he was a good repairman, but he sure is a tool. Fixed himself but good.

  • Mac cam : LED on (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dindi ( 78034 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @09:43AM (#36387272) Homepage

    Don't these people know, that when the little green LED is on next to the camera there is something going on with the camera?

    I do not know if there is any spyware that can disable that, but in my experience: whatever touches the camera, the led comes on.

    I am surprised about all these secretly filmed students, thieves, women who have 1000s of pictures taken of them and never figured that GREEN LIGHT=CAMERA ON.....

    Really, is there any software that can use the MAC cameras without turning the light on ?

    • by tibit ( 1762298 )

      No. At lest not in my 1st gen MBP. The camera's LED is hardwired to the power supply. If the camera is on, the LED is on. "Light Test" functionality can be had simply by turning on photo booth.

      • But he is a repairman. Could he not have rewired the LED to NOT come on? Seems like it would be fairly trivial if you've already got the computer open.
        • by jo_ham ( 604554 )

          That depends, on a laptop? Not trivial - you need to take out the logic board to get the screen off on many of them, and then you need to disassemble the screen. Unless he was the only guy working, and he had a lot of excess time, it would not be trivial to do - it would add at least a couple of hours to each job which is not a huge amount of time, but it's not a 5 minute thing either.

          • by lxs ( 131946 )

            I don't have my macbook handy, but I wonder if a dot with a felt tip marker would be a simpler solution.
            That LED is really small and on a dark background IIRC.

          • by Amouth ( 879122 )

            you know another way to do it quickly

            if your looking to disable the LED - burn it out - use a high powered green laser pointer (the ones that can set things on fire).. pointblank for a few seconds should heat the LED to the point that the substrate fails.. effectively burning it out - no need to dissemble.

            (no i have not tried this but i see no reason why it wouldn't work)

      • It seems to me that in your test, the driver could be responsible for activating the LED.

        • by tibit ( 1762298 )

          Without a hardware mod, if the camera's image sensor has power, the LED is on. When the camera is not in use, it receives no power, thus LED is off. So, no, the driver cannot play with the LED, it can only activate and deactivate the camera, and the LED will duly indicate that.

    • Don't these people know, that when the little green LED is on next to the camera there is something going on with the camera?

      No. Other than being close to the camera, it gives no indication that the camera is on. Regular users see so many lights on devices now, that it might have lost its intended effect (device being on/off). Maybe they think it's the light for the computer and it means the laptop is charging. There are plenty of reasons not to think it means the camera is on.

      • The two LEDs on my MBP are the one on the mag safe connector and the one by the camera. Apple designs don't follow the "you won't need any other lighting in the room" strategy that most other cases do.

        • You forgot the white power light. Thankfully, on the newest models, it's not as bright anymore. On older models, it could really light up the room at night. Which was incredibly annoying since it was slowly pulsing all the time.
    • This wasn't exactly recording half-hour long videos of people, but rather quick snaps. In a reasonably lit room, it's possible some may have missed a blink of said green dot, or if they had their back turned, doing something else in the room, even looking down at the keyboard. Those who saw it might have just thought "eh, that was weird, but it's off now" and wrote it off as a glitch.

      Also of note, this fella got caught because this software was actually also popping up strange error messages designed to
      • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )
        I would guess the hot steam meant he hoped the women would just take the laptop into the bathroom when them while they showered, so he could get some more naked pics.
      • Also of note, this fella got caught because this software was actually also popping up strange error messages designed to look like OS X system-launched messages that directed users to "use hot steam to clear a sensor" on their laptop. So maybe he was trying to keep himself in business hoping hapless users damaged their own computers heeding these warnings, so they'd call him back for return business?

        He wants them to take the laptop with them when they shower, although you're right that it's probably bad for the laptop to boot...

        • Oh, haha, I see now, I suppose it was a little dense of me to miss that, but I guess I'm happy that my mind didn't go the same direction as this perv-o. Yea, I certainly wouldn't take my Macbook in the hot shower-room with me. Doesn't sound like an optimal operating environment.
          • by d3ac0n ( 715594 )

            Doesn't sound like an optimal operating environment.

            Well, it's optimal if you are surreptitiously snapping pictures of people with the camera of said laptop.

    • Blame the victim. That's bullshit.

    • by SengirV ( 203400 )

      I was thinking the same thing. It would be interesting if anyone in the know could comment on the light going on for a quick picture, as opposed to video mode.

    • Don't these people know, that when the little green LED is on next to the camera there is something going on with the camera?

      Small and green does not raise an alarm when you live surrunded by LED indicators and displays. There are at least five active in my own living room. The instantaneous flash of a snapshot isn't likely to be noticed or questioned even on the rare occasion when you are looking directly at the lamp.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Internal and external webcam LED lights up, its a known issue, google finds Mac comments going back years.
      Not really dependant on any make, year, OS X version.
    • by kiwix ( 1810960 )
      On the other hand, if the spyware can not keep the light off, it can probably easily keep the light on all the time. Then users would either assume that it's broken or believe that the LED just means that the computer is on. In the worst case, they would bring the laptop back to the repairman...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    He wouldn't have been arrested if he just registered himself as a school first. Then it's just a lawsuit.

  • by Smigh ( 1634175 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @10:01AM (#36387490)
    This guy seriously needs to get laid. Seriously.
  • I have been telling my clients for years as more and more laptops have gotten built in cameras or more clients have webcams hooked up to their desktops -> put a piece of tape or a post-it note over the lens when not in use. I may be paranoid but it definitely keeps that camera from doing that.
    • by d3ac0n ( 715594 )

      Or buy a laptop with a cover for the camera lens. my wife's Asus netbook has an "on-off" switch for the camera that actually slides a lens cover over the lens when in the "off" position. It's a nice touch that ensures that even if you can turn the camera on via software, you still can't see out of it.

  • Can photo be used as a verb? Not according to online [] sources.
  • Mac? Women? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @10:28AM (#36387824) Homepage Journal

    Story is obviously a fake.

    • Story is obviously a fake.

      The geek spends too much time in grandma's basement.

    • by metlin ( 258108 )

      What are you talking about? Women using Mac are usually the hot and artsy/designer ones.

      The ones using Windows are the fat moms, and the ones using Linux are almost certainly the fat geeks.

  • Too bad he doesn't work for a PA school system. If he did he'd get out of jail free, even if the victims were minors.
  • Would little snitch have caught the offending program phoning home? Although he probably looked to see if the users had this installed.
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      If he ran it first and selected allow, any outgoing software firewall would let it pass as safe.
      It would take a look in the allowed apps list if it even showed up as something new or different?
      Physical access would allow the setting up/clearing of any security apps/logs.
      If the user did have too much security, try the next user?
  • So why don't built-in webcams have a sliding cover? It seems like the equivalent of a 'WiFi Disable' switch for the camera would stop these things dead. Of course it could just be a switch on the power supply line, but that wouldn't encourage the same sort of consumer confidence as an actual sliding cover.

    • by lwsimon ( 724555 )

      My Asus netbook does have a sliding cover on the webcam. It's one of the design features that prompted me to buy it.

  • Maybe he could work for the schoolboard now?
  • Some I'm just going to come out and say it:

  • But was he a good repairman?

    This right here is why many geeks will remain dateless. Good job, samzenpus.

"If you can, help others. If you can't, at least don't hurt others." -- the Dalai Lama