The crooks and thieves on the Internet never seem to stop. There is always a new security threat and someone is always trying to exploit other peoples’ sensitive information. On Wednesday, April 29, a Canadian woman by the name of Valérie Gignac was released on bail and charged by the Canadian government for infecting computers with viruses and malware that allowed her to take control of various components. Not only did she take control of her victims’ web cams to spy on them remotely, but she also took control of their computers as the victims were using them to browse the web.
Apparently, she abused some of her victims (including children) by taking control of their computing devices and loading pornographic websites before their eyes. Allegedly, she also listened in on personal conversations and communications (e.g. Skype conversations or other communication mediums). In addition, she had been arrested for using the speakers on her victims’ computers to speak directly with the victims. However, it does not seem that she intended to steal passwords, credit card numbers, or other similar information. Although it would not have been hard for her to accomplish.
About the Attacker
Valérie Gignac, who is 27 years old, carried out the attacks from Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez, Quebec. However, she seems to be more than a single and secretive rogue hacker. On the contrary, she previously had a security and vulnerabilities blog network that had over 35,000 members. She seems to be something of an online hacking authority, however, the police have taken her website down since her arrest to inhibit any further illicit activities.
Furthermore, with her massive online following and deep knowledge of security vulnerabilities, it is quite possible that she was not working alone. Though she may have targeted users’ computers to hijack their webcams, speakers, and audio/video calls simply for laughs, it is possible she was involved in other dubious projects. In fact, the Canadian police stated that she may be “at the origin of a botnet, i.e. a group of computers infected by a virus and remotely controlled by a hacker.”
Protecting Yourself from Similar Threats
The Internet is a scary place these days. Though companies are always trying to create patches to fix security flaws, the Internet is still the Wild West. As you send your data over the Internet, it passes through many different ISPs and even sometimes routed to offshore destinations. While in transit, multiple organizations or malicious attackers can steal your data, all the while remaining completely invisible to you.
Furthermore, some attackers have methods for seeing who connects to specific servers and have IP scanning techniques to find and identify your IP address. VPNs have two great benefits that will protect you from online attacks. They prevent your data from being seen (via encryption) if it is captured in transit as well as mask your IP address. Some people on the Internet, like the Canadian hacker, simply have malicious intent to harm innocent users. You need to use tools to protect yourself online to decrease your exposure to these kinds of risks.
As mentioned, one great tool is a VPN, so check out our top pick of VPN providers.