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Canadian Woman Blasts Porn to Neighbors' PCs

Credit: Dreamstime

(Image credit: Dreamstime)


It probably goes without saying that hacking can land you in jail, but it can do so even if you don’t steal a single dollar. This is a lesson that Valérie Gignac, a Quebecoise hacker, learned recently. Mounties arrested her and took her into custody after they became aware that she hosted her own botnet for the explicit purpose of messing with her neighbors via eavesdropping, talking through their speakers and exposing their children to extreme pornography.

Canadian news organization CBC News reported on the story, which the Royal Canadian Mounted Police first made public. Gignac belongs to a popular hacking forum (neither source would reveal which one, although it has approximately 35,000 members), and used remote-access Trojans (RATs) to hijack neighbors’ computers. From there, antagonizing their owners was as simple as keeping an eye on their activities and picking her poison.

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The police allege that Gignac used RATs to infect her victims’ computers, although they incorrectly identify the software as “Remote Administration Tools.” In actuality, remote administration tools can be totally legitimate, like desktop-sharing in Microsoft Windows. If Gignac misused legitimate software rather than used malware as advertised, it could change the case against her considerably.

After Mounties took her into custody, Gignac was released on bail, but with the provision that she could not access a computer or the Internet for the time being. Her court case is ongoing, but she is being charged with four counts of unauthorized use of a computer and misuse of data. Interestingly, Gignac’s supposed wrongdoing was not ongoing, but seemingly relegated to a four-day span back in 2012.

Since Gignac did not seek any financial gain from her endeavors, her lawyer has pitched the entire incident as “a bad prank,” which is likely true. Hackers are notorious for tampering with the status quo just for the heck of it, or “for the lulz,” as a popular meme says.

Still, the law is the law, and the victims of Gignac’s pranks had every right to bring legal action against her. Whether mild intrusions like this really warrant jailing a woman is something that legal scholars will likely have a field day discussing in the near future.

If you want to keep yourself safe from unwanted interference from mischievous neighbors, the protocol is the same as keeping yourself safe online in general. Run a good antivirus program, password-protect your computer and router, and don’t install suspicious programs.


Marshall Honorof is a senior writer for Tom's Guide. Contact him at mhonorof@tomsguide.com. Follow him @marshallhonorof. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.