Harwell, a 20-year-old Los Angeles, California area certified Mac
repair specialist is in a load of trouble after police discovered his
unusual hobby -- installing spyware on female clients' Macs and using it to
take naughty pictures of them remotely.
The young man's scheme was discovered when one of the victims took her Mac to a
local Apple, Inc. (AAPL) Genius Bar, complaining
that her Mac was popping up odd OS X system warnings.
The warnings were actually fake, but designed to look like standard system
warnings. One of the warnings informed her, "You should fix your
internal sensor soon. If unsure what to do, try putting your laptop near hot
steam for several minutes to clean the sensor."
The message reportedly was designed to try to trick the female victims into
taking the computer with them into the shower.
The Apple technician then discovered a piece of Mac malware called Camcapture
installed on the machine. They informed the young woman, "You need
to call police."
After contacting the police, Mr. Harwell's Fullerton, California residence was
raided and police seized electronics. Thousands of images were found on
the seized computers, all whom thus far have been identified as residents of
Los Angeles and Orange County. Mr. Harwell was arrested
Mr. Harwell's scheme was sophisticated. Not only did the installed
software allow for remote control commands of the webcam, according to
Fullerton police spokesman Andrew Goodrich, "It would let his server know
that the victim's machine was on. The server would then notify his
smartphone... and then the images were recorded on his home computer."
The photos contained women both dressed and unclothed. The popups
apparently tricked several women into taking their laptops with them into the
bathroom while showering (to give the laptop its requested "steam"
Mr. Harwell's business was named Rezitech and
was operated out of his home. Police believe there may be more victims
out there, still. Those who had contact with Mr. Harwell are advised to
look in the "/Library/WebServer/Documents" folder where the spyware
was typically installed.
Apple fans tend to have the false perception that Macs aren't affected by
malware or that only some minuscule percentage are affected by it. In
reality, the platform is home to a diverse
and growing body of malware, much like its operating system counterpart
from Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Windows. A recent
malware attack infected
1 in 20 Mac computers, according to service technician reports.
That'd be akin to a virus on Windows that infected 65 million Windows PCs
-- almost unheard of [source].
Mr. Harwell had a fundamentalist upbringing, reportedly, attending Biola University, a
small, private evangelical Christian college in southern California. Many
of the victims were Biola students, and police believe he may have compromised
university systems as well.