March 6th 2014
A 30-year-old man found guilty of installing spying software on women's computers to watch them remotely, will be sentenced in April.
This week Andrew Meldrum from Greenwich, London, was convicted on three counts of unauthorised access to computer material, and on two counts of voyeurism.
In November 2012 one of the victims – aged 21 – found software on her computer that enabled its webcam to be accessed remotely. Meldrum had recently helped her to resolve an issue with the computer, and she suspected that it was he who had installed it. Following an investigation, police arrested Meldrum shortly afterwards and bailed him pending further forensic investigations. On hearing about the issue, two other young women came forward, having also found the spyware on their machines after they had been similarly 'helped' by Meldrum. It is thought that in one case, the program had been installed for 15 months.
DC Nick Pailthorpe, the investigating officer from Southwark Borough CID, said: "This was a complex and protracted investigation that involved detailed examination and evaluation of computer files, where crucial evidence was secured. I would like to thank all witnesses in this investigation but especially the three victims who gave evidence on matters that were clearly of a private, intimate and personal nature to them." DC Pailthorpe added: "I hope that they can take some consolation in the guilty verdict that sends out a clear message to anyone that this type of intrusion into a person's private life is not acceptable and the Metropolitan Police will support all victims and pursue all suspects."
Speaking to Wired magazine, digital forensics expert Peter Sommer said that the techniques employed by Meldrum were "relatively unsophisticated" in that the victims knew him and had given him access to their computers. He said: "Most of the time people would send a trojan to somebody and the software would covertly switch the webcam on." Hed added that this sort of voyeurism is "very common" and spying software is "very easy to get hold of", but just how common is difficult to determine as many people do not even know they are being spied on. "But once there's a suspicion, any competent digital forensics investigator will be able to find the digital traces and trap (the perpetrator)," Mr Sommer added.
In another recent incident, Thames Valley Police were targeted when an electrical contractor installed a camera in the women's changing room at Abingdon Police Station whilst carrying out work there. Christopher Richardson-Blake, 32, pleaded guilty this week and he too will be sentenced next month.