More often than not as of late, it seems like there are stories published regarding the terrifying nature of life on the Internet. In this case, Ars Technica looks into the phenomenon of people "hacking" other computers using remote administration tools to gain access to files, photos and webcams.
From Ars Technica:
The woman is visible from thousands of miles away on a hacker's computer. The hacker has infected her machine with a remote administration tool (RAT) that gives him access to the woman's screen, to her webcam, to her files, to her microphone. He watches her and the baby through a small control window open on his Windows PC, then he decides to have a little fun. He enters a series of shock and pornographic websites and watches them appear on the woman's computer.
The woman is startled. "Did it scare you?" she asks someone off camera. A young man steps into the webcam frame. "Yes," he says. Both stare at the computer in horrified fascination. A picture of old naked men appears in their Web browser, then vanishes as a McAfee security product blocks a "dangerous site."
"I think someone hacked into our computer," says the young man.
Far away, the hacker opens his "Fun Manager" control panel, which provides a host of tools for messing with his RAT victims. He can hide their Windows "Start" button or the taskbar or the clock or the desktop, badly confusing many casual Windows users. He can have their computer speak to them. Instead, he settles for popping open the remote computer's optical drive.
Even over the webcam, the sound of shock is clear. "Stay right here," says the woman.
"Whoa!... the DVD thing just opened," says the young man.
The hacker sends the pair a message that reads "achoo!" and the young man laughs in astonishment. "Disconnect from the Internet," he says. "Your laptop's going to go kaboom next."
As a side note, this is the second story regarding webcam "hacking" (for lack of a better shorthand) I've seen in the last year from a fairly major news outlet — in GQ's January 2012 issue, they told the story of Luis Mijangos, who spent a significant amount of his time hacking and building RATs for other people to use.