A cyber criminal who used malware to spy on unknowing victims via their personal webcams has been jailed for a series of offences following an investigation by the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU).
ERSOU’s Regional Cyber Crime Unit were alerted to the illegal online activities of Shaun Turner, 29, of Race Course View, Cottenham, relating to his use of a malware system known as a Remote Access Trojan or ‘RAT’.
The RATs used by Turner enabled him to download all files held on his victims’ computers – including personal pictures, videos and identity documents. In addition, he deployed software to victims’ computers that streamed live images taken by their webcam to his own computer to view.
A number of victims were identified, who Turner had never met. Records were discovered that showed Turner has also acted as a ‘salesman’ for the distribution of malware, and offered technical assistance to aspiring cyber-criminals over chat applications.
Turner pleaded guilty to five offences including voyeurism, possession of indecent images of a child and a series of crimes under the Computer Misuse Act, including refusing to provide his encryption key for his computer files.
At Peterborough Crown Court yesterday (Monday) he was sentenced to three years in prison. Turner was also given a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 10 years restricting his future access to children and the internet.
Detective Inspector Martin Peters from ERSOU’s Cyber Crime Unit said: “We deal with a number of cases in which we work jointly with national and international partners.
“This case shows the insidious effects that cyber criminals can have on people’s personal lives, demonstrated in the fact that Turner accessed his victims’ computers and personal information without their knowledge.
“In some cases intimate personal images of the victims were stolen from their computers, while they themselves were unwittingly observed via their webcams for Turner’s own personal gratification. The youngest of the victims was aged just 15.
“Investigation of Turner’s devices showed that he had accessed pornographic websites and at the same time as looking at the victims’ own photos. There are suspected to be many more victims in this case who we have not been able to identify.
“Today’s sentence should send a stark message to cyber criminals. Your activity leaves a footprint which we will trace, to ensure that we prevent the harm caused to children and our communities by cyber crime.”
An NSPCC spokesperson said: “Turner went to shocking lengths to obtain information and images from his victims, one of whom was just 15, and it’s right that he’s now behind bars.
“At the NSPCC we know that the internet is used as a gateway to commit child sex offences. Last year alone 71 sex crimes against children in Cambridgeshire involved online grooming.
“It is vital that young people are empowered to stay safe online, which is why the NSPCC has published Share Aware; a guide to staying safe on social networks, apps and games.”
Children and young people can contact Childline anytime on 0800 1111 or access help online at www.childline.org.uk.