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Ohio computer programmer faces 16 criminal charges over monitoring thousands of computers

A 28-year-old computer expert has been charged for monitoring thousands of computers, using a form of malware he created

An Ohio computer programmer has been charged on 16 counts for continuous and unauthorised monitoring of computers over 13 years. 

The alleged hacker, Phillip R. Durachinsky, monitored the devices using a piece of malware he developed called Fruitfly, according to an indictment filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

He allegedly accessed thousands of Macs and Windows PCs in US schools, businesses, a police department and the government.

The indictment said he was involved in the criminal activity from around 2003 to 20 January 2017. The 28-year-old man has since been charged under the Computer and Fraud and Abuse Act, after the FBI investigated the case.    

Durachinsky’s malware enabled him to follow and save internet searches for the victims, along with communication and banking log-in details, medical records, emails and photographs. He was able to access saved files and upload on the computers, in addition to taking and downloading screenshots.

Furthermore, the indictment claims the programmer used Fruitfly to track keystrokes and record with either the webcam or microphone without the computer’s user being aware. According to the indictment, Durachinsky saved millions of images over the 13 years and made detailed notes on what he saw.

Acting Assistant Attorney, General John Cronan, said charging Durachinsky is part of the Justice Department’s attempts to find cyber criminals who intrude privacy.

“For more than 13 years, Phillip Durachinsky allegedly infected with malware the computers of thousands of Americans and stole their most personal data and communications,” he said.

“This case is an example of the Justice Department’s continued efforts to hold accountable cyber criminals who invade the privacy of others and exploit technology for their own ends.”

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Special agent in charge, Stephen Anthony, praised the collaboration of organisations and individuals in identifying the alleged crime.

“Durachinsky is alleged to have utilised his sophisticated cyber skills with ill intent, compromising numerous systems and individual computers,” he said.

“The FBI would like to commend the compromised entities that brought this to the attention of law enforcement authorities. It is this kind of collaboration that has enabled authorities to bring this cyber hacker to justice.”

The programmer has also been charged for violating the Wiretap Act, aggravated identity theft and the production of child pornography. These claims are only allegations at this stage and Durachinsky remains innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

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