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US man charged over 15-year spying campaign

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Image caption Most of the victims of the Fruitfly malware were using Apple Mac computers

An American man has been charged with allegedly spying on thousands of people via their computers for more than a decade.

The US Justice department accused Philip Durachinsky of creating malware to infiltrate victims’ computers.

During the campaign, Mr Durachinsky is alleged to have stolen data and secretly recorded images and audio.

He has been charged with breaking US laws on fraud, computer abuse and identity theft.

In addition, because some of the victims were minors, he has also been charged with producing child pornography. In total, Mr Durachinsky faces 16 separate charges.

‘Schools hacked’

“Durachinsky is alleged to have utilised his sophisticated cyber-skills with ill intent, compromising numerous systems and individual computers,” said FBI special agent Stephen Anthony, who led the investigation.

Mr Anthony said many of the organisations that Mr Durachinsky is claimed to have compromised, shared key information with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies helping them uncover who was behind the hack attacks.

As well as individuals, Mr Durachinsky is said to have hacked into schools, companies, a police department and a subsidiary of the US Department of Energy.

The malware used to penetrate machines, which were predominantly Apple Mac laptops and desktops, is called Fruitfly. It was first identified in early 2017 and left security researchers baffled because it was not clear how the software managed to infect machines.

Analysis of the malware and machines it was found on suggest it was first used in 2003. Apple produced a patch to fix the vulnerabilities it exploited in late January last year.

Mr Durachinsky was arrested soon after information about Fruitfly was made public.

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