UK man sentenced to prison for hacking and spying on victims through their webcams

UK police say suspect recorded victims during intimate moments using malware named Imminent Monitor RAT.

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Close-up black web camera at the laptop

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A UK man was sentenced this week to two years in prison for infecting at least three female victims with malware and then watching and recording victims via their webcams.

Scott Cowley, 27, of St. Helens, a town north-west of Liverpool, was arrested last year on November 25. His arrest was part of an international law enforcement operation that cracked down on users who bought Imminent Monitor, a malware strain sold online since 2013, and disguised as a remote administration tool.

According to the UK North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU), Cowley infected victims with the Imminent Monitor RAT (remote access trojan). He used the tool's capabilities to enable victims' webcams, but without activating the camera status LED.

This allowed Cowley to record videos and take screenshots while victims were unaware, and during intimate moments, including sexual acts.

UK police said they found folders on Cowley's computer containing recordings of three victims. Cowley's devices were seized following his arrest.

"Today we welcome the sentencing of Scott Cowley who used highly technological methods to obtain private videos and images of innocent victims for his own sexual gratification," said NWROCU Detective Sergeant Steve Frame.

One of the nine Imminent Monitor users arrested in the UK

During last fall's operation, international law enforcement shut down the Imminent Monitor RAT website and arrested 13 of the tool's most prolific buyers.

Europol reported arrests in Australia, Colombia, Czechia, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Nine of the 13 suspects were arrested in the UK. Cowley is one of the four subjects arrested in the UK's North West region. The other three -- currently unnamed -- are:

  • A 23-year-old man from Denton, Manchester
  • A 24-year-old man from Leigh
  • A 36-year-old man from Farnworth

Cowley pleaded guilty shortly after his arrest. Besides the prison term, Cowley is also subject to a ten year Sexual Harm Prevention Order, and a ten-year Sexual Offender Notification requirement.