“The woman was shocked when she received two nude photos of herself by e-mail,” Ashkan Soltani and Timothy B. Lee report for The Washington Post. “The photos had been taken over a period of several months — without her knowledge — by the built-in camera on her laptop.”

“Fortunately, the FBI was able to identify a suspect: her high school classmate, a man named Jared Abrahams. The FBI says it found software on Abrahams’s computer that allowed him to spy remotely on her and numerous other women,” Soltani and Lee report. “Abrahams pleaded guilty to extortion in October. The woman, identified in court papers only as C.W., later identified herself on Twitter as Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf. While her case was instant fodder for celebrity gossip sites, it left a serious issue unresolved.”

“Most laptops with built-in cameras have an important privacy feature — a light that is supposed to turn on any time the camera is in use. But Wolf says she never saw the light on her laptop go on. As a result, she had no idea she was under surveillance,” Soltani and Lee report. “Marcus Thomas, former assistant director of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division in Quantico, said in a recent story in The Washington Post that the FBI has been able to covertly activate a computer’s camera — without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording — for several years. Now research from Johns Hopkins University provides the first public confirmation that it’s possible to do just that, and demonstrates how. “

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Use a bit of tape or a folded notecard to cover the FaceTime HD cameras when not in use.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers "Carlton Wiens" and "Lynn Weiler" for the heads up.]

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Lower Merion report: MacBook webcams snapped 56,000 clandestine images of high schoolers – April 20, 2010