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Fortunately, the FBI was able to identify a suspect: her high school classmate, a man named Jared Abrahams. W., later identified herself on Twitter as Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf.
The FBI says it found software on Abrahams’s computer that allowed him to spy remotely on her and numerous other women. While her case was instant fodder for celebrity gossip sites, it left a serious issue unresolved.
For example, it can make it easier for a school’s IT staff to administer a classroom full of computers.
Indeed, the devices the researchers studied were similar to Mac Books involved in a notorious case in Pennsylvania in 2008.
In a paper called “i See You: Disabling the Mac Book Webcam Indicator LED,” Brocker and Checkoway describe how to reprogram the i Sight camera’s micro-controller to allow the camera and light to be activated independently.
That allows the camera to be turned on while the light stays off.
“People are starting to think about what happens when you can reprogram each of those,” Miller says.
“Apple went to some amount of effort to make sure that the LED would turn on whenever the camera was taking images,” Checkoway says.
Their research is under consideration for an upcoming academic security conference.
The researchers also provided us with a copy of their proof-of-concept software.
“There’s no reason you can’t do it -- it’s just a lot of work and resources but it depends on how well [Apple] secured the hardware,” Miller says. Brocker and Checkoway write in their report that they contacted the company on July 16.
“Apple employees followed up several times but did not inform us of any possible mitigation plans,” the researchers write.