Whatever 17-year-old Hector Hernandez was doing on his computer, it must have been pretty humiliating, because he stole $100,000 worth of jewelry from his parents to pay off blackmailers in the Philippines.
Wait. Back it up for a second. How did blackmailers in the Philippines know what the teenager in Detroit was doing on his computer?
Seems young Hector was bitten by a RAT. That’s not a rodent, but an acronym for “Remote Administration Tool.” The name sounds harmless enough, but in the wrong hands — and like most technology, it usually ends up in the wrong hands — a RAT can be more than just a pest.
What a Remote Administration Tool does is allow someone at a remote location to control your computer. In a business setting, a RAT is a handy device for tech support people to fix minor problems with an employee’s computer without needing to trudge all the way to that employee’s desk to see what’s wrong.
But thanks to the wonders of the internet a RAT can also be planted on any net-connected computer as a virus. Once in place, it allows someone in any location, even halfway around the world, to gain control over your computer and perform such functions as leaf through your personal files or perhaps worse, turn on your computer’s camera.
With the popularity of teleconferencing applications such as Skype, most computers manufactured in the past several years come with a camera built in. As soon as you open your laptop, or sit down at your desk, the camera is pointing right at you.
Someone secretly controlling the camera from afar can see you — and whatever it is you’re doing.
What Hector (pictured) was doing, he has not described in public. Use your imagination. But whatever it was, someone claiming to be in the Philippines got it on camera via a RAT virus and threatened to post he vid online unless the teen coughed up a pile of cash.
"I was scared. I didn't know what to do. I was trying to have them not send it," Hernandez told a local TV station. “I didn't want my parents finding out what I did and I feel terrible about it."
He stole what is estimated to be $100,000 in jewelry from his parents — and pawned it for 1,500 bucks.
He sent some to the blackmailers via wire, but shocker of all shockers, they still wanted more. That’s when hector ‘fessed up and told his parents everything.
"So angry. I'm disappointed with him," said his mother Lila Hernandez, though mom and son exchanged a tearful hug. Whether the Hernandez family can get their jewels back from a local pawnshop remains to be seen — as does the embarrassing video of Hector.
SOURCES: MyFoxDetroit, ARS Technica