NEWS

Quebec Woman Allegedly Hacked Computers, Scared Children

04/29/2015 11:33 EDT | Updated 06/29/2015 05:59 EDT
MONTREAL - A Quebec woman who allegedly took control of computers by remote control and frightened people — including underage children in Canada and abroad — was charged Wednesday after being arrested by the RCMP.

Valerie Gignac, 27, was apprehended Wednesday after the Mounties searched her residence in Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez, about 75 kilometres northeast of Montreal.

She was arraigned in court in nearby Joliette on charges of unauthorized use of a computer and mischief in relation to computer data.

Const. Philippe Gravel, a spokesman for the force's integrated technological crime unit, said the arrest came after an investigation that began in March.

He said Gignac remains free until her next court appearance. on June 16, but she must abide by a list of conditions that include staying away from the Internet.

"She is not allowed to have the Internet at home, her cellphone must not have access to the Internet and she must not be in an Internet cafe or anywhere she can use the Internet," Gravel said in an interview.

He added that additional charges may be filed at her next court appearance.

Gravel also said it's rare for a woman to face hacking-related charges.

"It's the first time I've charged a woman with computer crime offences," he added.

Authorities allege Gignac used a malicious software that allows cybercriminals to control the operations of infected computers and spy on people through their own webcams.

The RCMP pointed out that some of the alleged victims were exposed to extreme pornography.

"As far as we know for now, until we do the analysis of the computers, she is the only one involved," he said.

Gravel said evidence points to at least eight computers having been allegedly hacked.

"But watching the videos we know there are more and the analysis of the computers will tell us," he said. "We know that there are (people involved) in Canada and abroad."

Gravel said he does not know which cities were targeted but noted that everyone spoke English.

He said a remote administration tool, which he described as easy-to-use software, was used to get into people's computers.

Gignac, who lives alone, allegedly used various techniques to harass people, including eavesdropping on private conversations and communicating through the speakers of their computers.

It's alleged the woman posted videos on YouTube in which she can be seen taking over control of infected computers and scaring victims.

The suspect is also allegedly the owner of an online Canadian-based hacking forum that has 35,000 users worldwide.

The arrest prompted Gravel to issue some little-known advice for Internet users.

"If you have a webcam,...unplug it when you don't use it, or if it's imbedded in your computer, maybe put a little electrical tape over it to make sure you close that bad door."

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