A Quebec woman is facing criminal charges for allegedly taking over people's computers remotely, spying on them through their web cameras and harassing them through their computer speakers.
Valérie Gignac, a 27-year-old from Saint-Alphonse-de-Rodriguez, Que., appeared in court today and was charged with four counts related to the unauthorized use of a computer and mischief in relation to computer data.
According to the RCMP, Gignac is believed to have used a botnet — a technique that helps distribute malicious software and infect a group of computers, which basically turns them into "zombies" by forcing them to perform tasks without the owner's knowledge.
Investigators allege the suspect used malicious software to spy on people through their web cameras.
Police also say Gignac eavesdropped on private conversations, communicated with victims through their computer speakers and logged onto extreme pornography websites.
"She spoke with them, she interacted with them. She showed them some pornography on the screen just to see how they would react," said Const. Philippe Gravel of the RCMP's integrated technological crime unit.
Investigators believe the victims included children in Canada and abroad, and say there could be more victims.
They also say Gignac is the owner of an online hacking forum that has 35,000 users worldwide.
'A bad prank,' lawyer says
Police began investigating a few weeks ago, and say the charges stem from a four-day period in 2012.
Gignac's lawyer, Michel Leclerc, said his client wasn't trying to scam people to make money.
"It's just a bad prank," he said.
Gignac was released on bail Wednesday afternoon, on the condition that she not use a computer or have access to the internet.
She is expected to be back in court in June.