A former company IT director pleaded guilty in federal court on Friday (Nov. 9) to charges of intercepting communications after authorities determined he had spied on two female co-workers without their knowledge.
Christopher Channer of Tampa, Fla., faces up to five years in prison after secretly remotely tapping into webcams at the Atlanta offices of advertising agency 22squared and clandestinely capturing more than 1,200 screenshots of the two women. Some screenshots depicted a bare breast.
Channer, who was based in 22squared's Tampa office, had detailed knowledge of the company network when he committed the crime in 2010. But eavesdropping on a webcam isn't technically difficult.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Channer committed the crime using software used for tracking down stolen or missing laptops. This type of software is designed to circumvent computer protections in order to access devices like the microphone, camera and wireless connection in order to provide clues to a device's whereabouts.
While this type of software has its uses, it's rife with potential for abuse.
Several companies who rent electronics to consumers ran afoul of the law after they were caught using similar programs to take compromising photographs on rented laptops of customers to extort payment from them.
Common sense and vigilance go a long way toward mitigating this type of threat. If you have a webcam embedded in your monitor, cover it with a small piece of electrical tape; if it's an external camera, point it at something boring and benign when you're not using it.
Remember, many webcams are equipped with an "on" light. Pay attention: If that light is on, but you're not using your camera, something may be amiss.
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