On January 25, 2013, a federal grand jury in the Central District of California returned a 30-count Indictment against Karen "Gary" Kazaryan, 27, Glendale, CA, who was arrested on January 29th. Kazaryan is charged with 15 counts of computer intrusion and 15 counts of aggravated identity theft. If convicted on all counts, Kazaryan faces up to 105 years in federal prison
NOTE: An Indictment merely contains allegations and a defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
According to the Indictment, Kazaryan hacked into online accounts and changed the user's password, blocking the victim's access. Thereafter, Kazaryan searched e-mails or other files for naked or semi-naked pictures of the victims, as well as other information, such as passwords and the names of their friends.
It would be one thing if Kazaryan did what we would typically expect at this point - use the stolen identities to purchase millions of dollars worth of merchandise. That's not what happened here. What did happen is scary and a serious warning about the dangers of the online world.
Armed with the stolen online information, Kazaryan - a man - posed online as women and sent instant messages to the friends of the hacked accounts. And what did these messages ask for? Allegedly, Kazaryan tried to persuade the recipients to remove their clothing so that he could view and take pictures of them, apparently while on Facebookand/or Skype with these individuals.
Some of Kazaryan's targets realized that he was not the female friend that he was pretending to be and balked at his demands. Now a bad situation gets worse - as in ugly and frightening. If Kazaryan had, in fact, managed to get compromising photos of these folks, he then attempted to use those pictures to coerce them into removing their clothes on camera. How far was this guy prepared to go? According to federal prosecutors, he posted nude photos of some non-compliant victims on their Facebook pages.
It might be comforting to think that Kazaryan was simply some pimply-faced teenager, in his parents' basement, using a 20-year-old modem, and harassing a handful of women. The reality isn't so satisfying. He's not a kid. He seemed to have planned this out according to the feds. And we're not talking about a few victims that you could count on one or two hands. To the contrary, the feds believe that Kazaryan victimized over 350 women - but the investigation is ongoing and who knows where that finally tally may end. To date, some 3,000 pictures of nude or semi-nude women were found on Kazaryan's computers. 3,000 photos! Some of those pictures were taken from hacked online accounts and some were taken by Kazaryan on Skype.
If you believe that you were a victim in this case or know someone who was, contact the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office at (310) 477-6565.
Bill Singer's Comment
The bulk of this alleged online criminality didn't happen through some patchwork quilt of hacker sites. The frightening aspect of the allegations in this case is that the defendant largely used the popular Skype (now owned by tech giant Microsoft) and Facebook to perpetrate the worst of his apparent extortion. Armed with allegedly stolen identities and passwords, Kazaryan was purportedly able to simply coerce his victims by threats to post nude pictures of them on their own Facebook accounts - and many of those photos seem to have been voluntarily provided via Skype, albeit to someone posing as a friend.
What was once the nastiness of a relatively hidden world of hackers is now easily facilitated through the mainstream online world. When we're talking about pulling this off with Skype and Facebook, it's not like you need to have a ton of computer savvy to terrorize folks. Of course, that also makes collateral damage out of a lot of public companies serving as the infrastructure for the Internet.
Frankly, there's probably no real "safe" online and commonsense may well be the best defense. That being said, we all get far too many emails each day from folks trying to hack into our personal lives. It's nearly impossible to tell the good guys from the bad guys when you're online, and that may be about all the warning you're ever going to get. Next time you get the urge to take off your clothes while Skyping, maybe you should ask yourself "why?"