A man who spied on unsuspecting victims through their webcams has escaped a prison sentence after buying off-the-shelf LuminosityLink malware and using CCTV software to spy on them.
John Wood, 42, received a two-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to two Computer Misuse Act charges and six counts of voyeurism at Swindon Crown Court.
Crown prosecutor Russell Pyne told the court that Wood had been caught by police as part of a wider multinational investigation into LuminosityLink creator Colton Grubbs, who pleaded guilty to US criminal charges over the malware in 2018.
LuminosityLink was malware sold for $39.99 and intended to be secretly deployed onto Windows PCs. Once in place, the malware enabled any webcams connected to the machine and broadcast their footage back to the perpetrator. The spyware was very popular amongst criminal voyeurs, malicious employers, and so on. It was also capable of recording keystrokes, exfiltrating usernames and passwords, and even turning the host machine into part of a DDoS botnet.
Wood, of Minety, a hamlet northwest of Swindon in England, was found to have purchased the spyware in 2015. According to local newspaper the Swindon Advertiser, Wood's purchase of LuminosityLink came to light as part of a joint FBI-UK police operation, with the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit tracking him down and analysing his computers.
Although the court heard no evidence that Wood used LuminosityLink, he did use an off-the-shelf CCTV management product called Blue Iris to make around 1,400 illicit video recordings from hacked webcams, "the majority of which showed people having sex at home," the newspaper reported.
The defendant also deployed hidden cameras in UK family resort Butlins, covertly filmed women inside and outside his home, and even in a holiday cottage. His stash featured footage captured between 2011 and 2016, with police having finally caught up with him in 2018.
Nicholas Wragg, Wood's barrister, reportedly told the court his client had been diagnosed with mental health difficulties. He was said to be receiving therapy and to have the support of his family.
His Honour Judge Peter Crabtree described Wood as having engaged in "systematic campaign of voyeurism over a period of six years" as he passed the suspended sentence. Wood must also register as a sex offender and obey a sexual harm prevention order for 10 years, as well as completing 100 hours of unpaid work and a sex offender rehab programme.
The Swindon Advertiser pictured Wood leaving court carrying two well-filled bags. He got off lightly: Grubbs, the creator of LuminosityLink, had to forfeit 114 Bitcoins and serve 30 months in US prison, as we reported in late 2018. ®