Attached to the note was a file labeled simply SCARY. Yeah, the IM had come from her account, but she hadn't sent it. That night, Suzy's 20-year-old friend Nila Westwood got the same note, the same attachment. When she called her friend to see what she'd missed, things actually got freaky: Suzy'd never sent a thing.Melissa wondered why her goof-off sister was IM'ing from the next room instead of just padding over—she wasn't usually that lazy—so she walked over to see what was up. Unlike Melissa, she opened it, expecting, say, a video of some guy stapling his lip to his chin on You Tube. The girls pieced together the clues and agreed: Suzy's AOL account had been hacked.As Mistah X taunted James, his IMs filling the screen, James called Amy: He had the creep online. They talked about calling the cops, but no sooner had James said the words than the hacker reprimanded him. The task of hunting him down fell to agents Tanith Rogers and Jeff Kirkpatrick of the FBI's cyber program in Los Angeles."I know you're talking to each other right now! James's throat constricted; how did the stalker know what he was saying? Since its founding in 2002, the program's cyber squads have worked out of a cluttered, bustling office on Wilshire Boulevard, a maze of cubicles that looks more like the office of a video-game company than of a federal agency.As the weeks ticked by, the agents gutted software and slogged through subpoenas.Then they finally got a break: A few of the domain names were registered to one Luis Mijangos. Mijangos, assuming that wasn't an alias, lived on a quiet street in Santa Ana, a suburb in Orange County not far from Disneyland.But what if they It's a question that James Kelly and his girlfriend, Amy Wright, never thought they'd have to entertain. Amy, a 20-year-old brunette at the University of California at Irvine, was on her laptop when she got an IM from a random guy nicknamed mistahxxxrightme, asking her for webcam sex. Amy told the guy off, but he IM'd again, saying he knew all about her, and to prove it he started describing her dorm room, the color of her walls, the pattern on her sheets, the pictures on her walls. It was like Amy'd slipped into a stalker movie. Amy watched in horror as the picture materialized on the screen: a shot of her in that very room, naked on the bed, having webcam sex with James. The hacker fired off a note to James's ex-girlfriend Carla Gagnon: "nice video I hope you still remember this if you want to chat and find out before I put it online hit me up." Attached was a video still of her in the nude. The campus police were in no position to handle a case like this.Then the hacker contacted James directly, boasting that he had control of his computer, and it became clear this wasn't about sex: He was toying with them. But the instant she phoned the dispatcher, a message chimed on her screen. Whoever devised the malware—a sophisticated program capable of dodging antivirus software—clearly had a leg up on university cops.
While Rogers often takes the lead consoling victims and grilling suspects, Kirkpatrick can wade through thousands of lines of code to find the slightest abnormality.
The silence led to guesswork: Maybe he didn't really live there after all. Luis Mijangos was an unlikely candidate for the world's creepiest hacker.
He lived at home with his mother, half brother, two sisters—one a schoolgirl, the other a housekeeper—and a perky gray poodle named Petra.
Every online scam begins more or less the same—a random e-mail, a sketchy attachment.
But every so often, a new type of hacker comes along. He secretly burrows his way into your hard drive, then into your life. It was a Saturday night, not much happening in her Long Beach, California, neighborhood, so high school senior Melissa Young was home messing around on her computer.