Webcam sex messenger

Melissa wondered why her goof-off sister was IM'ing from the next room instead of just padding over—she wasn't usually that lazy—so she walked over to see what was up. Unlike Melissa, she opened it, expecting, say, a video of some guy stapling his lip to his chin on You Tube. The girls pieced together the clues and agreed: Suzy's AOL account had been hacked.

For the next couple of weeks, the girls remained watchful for malware, insidious software capable of wreaking all sorts of havoc.

The house was quiet, save the keyboard tapping in the girls' rooms, when the odd little instant message popped up on Melissa's screen—an IM from Suzy.

The one photo they turned up showed a 30-year-old dark-skinned Latino with a long narrow nose and bushy black eyebrows.

The feds set up surveillance outside the blue ranch house on a quiet side street.

"I know you're talking to each other right now! James's throat constricted; how did the stalker know what he was saying? Since its founding in 2002, the program's cyber squads have worked out of a cluttered, bustling office on Wilshire Boulevard, a maze of cubicles that looks more like the office of a video-game company than of a federal agency.

Bookshelves spill with tomes on hacking and programming.

"We could see all of these different communications he had with several different women doing the same thing," Rogers recalls.

As the weeks ticked by, the agents gutted software and slogged through subpoenas.

One by one, they gazed fearfully into the lenses, wondering if someone was watching and if, perhaps now, they were looking into the eye of something scary after all. They stare out at us blankly from our phones and laptops, our Xboxes and i Pads, a billion eyes and ears just waiting to be turned on. As she pleaded for the police to come quickly, she reached into the shower and cranked the water all the way up, hoping the hacker couldn't hear her.

But what if they It's a question that James Kelly and his girlfriend, Amy Wright, never thought they'd have to entertain. Amy, a 20-year-old brunette at the University of California at Irvine, was on her laptop when she got an IM from a random guy nicknamed mistahxxxrightme, asking her for webcam sex. Amy told the guy off, but he IM'd again, saying he knew all about her, and to prove it he started describing her dorm room, the color of her walls, the pattern on her sheets, the pictures on her walls. It was like Amy'd slipped into a stalker movie. Amy watched in horror as the picture materialized on the screen: a shot of her in that very room, naked on the bed, having webcam sex with James. The hacker fired off a note to James's ex-girlfriend Carla Gagnon: "nice video I hope you still remember this if you want to chat and find out before I put it online hit me up." Attached was a video still of her in the nude. The campus police were in no position to handle a case like this.

Then the hacker contacted James directly, boasting that he had control of his computer, and it became clear this wasn't about sex: He was toying with them. But the instant she phoned the dispatcher, a message chimed on her screen. Whoever devised the malware—a sophisticated program capable of dodging antivirus software—clearly had a leg up on university cops.

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