The Downside of Spyware

Earlier this month we reported on the story of Joshua Kaufman, the Tumblr blogger who used a secret program on his MacBook to remotely photograph the man who stole his computer. Kaufman then posted those photos on the Internet, eventually persuading police in his home city of Oakland to arrest the man and retrieve the computer. Kaufman’s story exploded across the world and landed him on The Early Show.

Hooray spyware!

But hold on. Now the story has come out about an Orange County man who planted similar software on other people’s computers without them knowing. Trevor Harwell is a 20-year-old computer repairman who allegedly installed this kind of program on the computers of young, attractive women and was able to snap photos of them without their knowledge.

Get this, via Reuters:

Police say they began investigating Harwell after a Fullerton resident contacted authorities over a suspicious message on his daughter’s computer.

The message mimicked a system error advising her of a problem with an “internal sensor” and advised: “If unsure what to do, try putting your laptop near hot steam for several minutes to clean the sensor.”

Goodrich said many users who got a similar message took their laptops into the bathroom while they showered, where Harwell allegedly photographed them undressing or naked.

For the record, we find Harwell’s behavior absolutely repulsive. And we’re not blaming the victims here. But are you fucking kidding me? How in the world did that actually work? He might as well have written “go wash your breasts and buttocks while moaning ever so slightly and sensor will reset in approximately 30 seconds to 5 minutes.”

Again, for the record, laptops and showers are never supposed to mix.

Previously on FishbowlLA: ‘This Guy Has My MacBook’ Blogger Gets his MacBook Back