SpyWare That Actually Spies On You

Amid groans of “I wonder why it took so long?” a new worm has been discovered that can access a webcam and microphone attached to an infected PC.

Rbot-GR installs itself in the usual spyware fashion, and also includes the traditional payload of key logger and hard drive spy, plus it can launch denial of service attacks against websites. This one is a veritable Swiss Army knife of an infection. It’s yet another variant of the W32/Rbot worm, though this is the first to be able to access a camera to take grabs and capture video.

A Trojan of this sophistication could have any number of uses – from industrial espionage to voyeurism.

Sophos, the anti-virus company, say it’s not spreading very successfully yet, but users should be aware of the possibility of infection.

“More and more hackers are interested in spying on the people they manage to infect with their worms and Trojan horses. In the workplace, this worm opens up the possibilities of industrial espionage. At home it is equivalent to a Peeping Tom who invades your privacy by peering through your curtains,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. “If your computer is infected and you have a webcam plugged in, then everything you do in front of the computer can be seen, and everything you say can be recorded.”

If your webcam has an activity light, keep an eye on it – and get a spyware removal tool.


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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?