Internet dating assault
Mijangos’ actions constitute serial online sexual abuse—something, we shall argue, akin to virtual sexual assault.
As the prosecutor said in the case, Mijangos “play[ed] psychological games with his victims” His victims reported signs of immense psychological stress, noting that they had “trouble concentrating, appetite change, increased school and family stress, lack of trust in others, and a desire to be alone.” * * * As bizarre as the Mijangos case may sound, his conduct turns out to be not all that unusual.
The perpetrator wanted a pornographic video of the victim.
And if she did not send it within one day, he threatened to publish the images already in his possession, and “let [her] family know about [her] dark side.” If she contacted law enforcement, he promised he would publish the photos on the Internet too.
In at least one case, he posted nude photos of a victim on the Myspace account of a friend of the victim, which Mijangos had also hacked, after she refused to comply with his demands.
To make matters worse, Mijangos also used the computers he controlled to spread his malware further, propagating to the people in his victims’ address books instant messages that appeared to come from friends and thereby inducing new victims to download his malware.
The malware Mijangos wrote was sophisticated, and he told federal authorities that he designed it specifically to be undetectable to antivirus programs.
He then, according to court documents, “used [those] intimate images or videos of female victims he stole or captured to ‘sextort’ those victims, threatening to post those images or videos on the Internet unless the victims provided more.” Mijangos’s threats were not idle.
Sextortion cases involve what are effectively online, remote sexual assaults, sometimes over great distances, sometimes even crossing international borders, and sometimes―as with Mijangos―involving a great many victims.
Law enforcement authorities investigating the emails soon realized that the threatening communications were part of a larger series of crimes.
Mijangos, they discovered, had tricked scores of women and teenage girls into downloading malware onto their computers.
As defined in the Mijangos court documents, sextortion is “a form of extortion and/or blackmail” wherein “the item or service requested/demanded is the performance of a sexual act.” The crime takes a number of different forms, and it gets prosecuted under a number of different statutes.
Sometimes it involves hacking people’s computers to acquire images then used to extort more.