NY Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf appears on CNN Wire Affiliate WPIX-TV.
by Mariano Castillo and Greg Botelho
(CNN) — The college student accused of hijacking the webcam of Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf and other young women is a former high school classmate of the pageant winner.
Jared James Abrahams, 19, was arrested Thursday for allegedly taking nude images of the women using their own webcams, and then blackmailing them to send more explicit material.
Wolf, the reigning Miss Teen USA, said she recognized the alleged perpetrator when his name and image were released.
“It’s weird for me to be able to put a face to the person who did this to me, and that it was a person I went to high school with,” Wolf said Friday on NBC’s “Today.”
Abrahams wasn’t her friend or even an acquaintance, she said. She just remembers knowing his name and seeing him in the hallways of her high school.
After watching television images of Abrahams being led out of court, Wolf said she felt mixed emotions. This man allegedly had terrorized her, but she also felt kind of sorry for him.
“I don’t think he realizes the consequences that he’s done and the people that he hurt,” she said on NBC. “He terrorized me and many girls for so long.”
Abrahams, from Temecula, California, is a computer science student.
He is accused of taking nude pictures of Wolf while she changed clothes or walked into her room after a shower. Wolf said she was completely unaware; the light on her computer never turned on to show the camera was on.
Fears about such hacking is not misplaced.
Last month, it was reported that some high-end televisions with built-in cameras could be turned on without the viewers knowing.
Security cameras, lights, heating control systems and even door locks and windows are now increasingly coming with features that allow users to control them remotely. Without proper security controls, there’s little to stop hackers from invading users’ privacy, stealing personal information or spying on people.
Abrahams’ arrest came six months after Wolf alerted authorities to the “sextortion” scheme.
Authorities executed a search warrant at Abrahams’ home on June 4, at which time he “voluntarily agreed to speak” with a pair of FBI agents. Describing himself in that interview as a college freshman who was good with computers, a criminal complaint said, he admitted using malware and his expertise to “watch his victims change their clothes and … use the photographs against them.”
When he admitted what he’d done, Abrahams said he had 30 to 40 “slave computers” — or other people’s electronic devices he controlled — and has had as many as 150 total, according to the complaint.
Investigators also linked him to at least eight other young women, some of them, like Wolf, from Southern California. Others were from as far away as Moldova.
Wolf said she became aware of the hack after she got a Facebook alert that someone had tried to change her password to the social networking site. She then noticed other passwords had been changed and that her Twitter avatar was now a half-nude picture of herself.
Then she got a threat: “Either you do one of the things listed below or I upload these pics and a lot more (I have a LOT more and those are better quality) on all your accounts for everybody to see and your dream of being a model will be transformed into a pornstar” (sic).
Wolf says she is now on a campaign to raise awareness about the risks that technology can expose users to.