A 27-year-old woman from the Lanaudière region has been ordered off the Internet after the RCMP charged her with hacking into computers so she could intimidate people, including several children.
Valérie Gignac, a resident of Saint-Alphonse-de-Rodriguez, appeared before a judge at the courthouse in Joliette on Wednesday where she faces four charges. She is accused of fraudulently using a computer and committing mischief. The charges refer to a brief period near the start of July 2012.
Gignac was ordered to be released after agreeing to follow a series of eight conditions, including one that requires that she cancel her Internet service within 48 hours of her release. Besides not being allowed to reside at a home with Internet access, she also cannot frequent Internet cafés or any similar public place while her case is pending.
According to a statement issued by the RCMP, Gignac is “believed to be at the origin of a botnet, a group of computers infected by a virus and remotely controlled by a hacker.” She is alleged to have used malicious software known as a remote administration tool (RAT) that allows cybercriminals to spy on victims by taking control of the webcam on an infected computer.
“The investigation shows that the suspect used various methods to harass her victims, including by eavesdropping on private conversations and by communicating with victims through the speakers of their infected computers,” the RCMP said in its statement. “She also frightened her victims by taking over control of their computers and by logging on to extreme pornography websites. Her victims included underage children both in Canada and abroad.”
Const. Philippe Gravel, the lead investigator with the RCMP’s Integrated Technological Crime Unit, said they stumbled upon the alleged hacker while investigating another case. They noticed a woman from Quebec was reading an online forum for hackers and decided to focus their attention on her.
The unit used to lend support to other RCMP investigations, but in 2010 it received the mandate to take on probes of its own. The investigation was conducted with help from the Sûreté du Québec.