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.
For the next couple of weeks, the girls remained watchful for malware, insidious software capable of wreaking all sorts of havoc.
But with no sign of trouble on their machines—no slow performance, no deleted files, no alerts from antivirus programs—they pretty much forgot about it. Suzy, Melissa, and Nila went about their lives online and off.
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.
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.He had no California driver's license, leading them to suspect he was an illegal immigrant.The one photo they turned up showed a 30-year-old dark-skinned Latino with a long narrow nose and bushy black eyebrows.They obtained search warrants for his Internet provider to check activity associated with his e-mail accounts and soon found dozens of victims."We could see all of these different communications he had with several different women doing the same thing," Rogers recalls.Kirkpatrick, a programming expert, spent over a decade working in information security in the private sector.