Police: Computer tech installed peeping software

June 9, 2011 - 4:29 AM
Computer Peeper

This photo provided by the Fullerton (Calif.) Police Department on Wednesday, June 8, 2011 shows Trevor Harwell. Police say Harwell, a Southern California computer repairman installed spyware on laptops that enabled him to snap and download photographs of women showering and undressing in their homes. (AP Photo/Fullerton (Calif.) Police Department)

FULLERTON, Calif. (AP) — An Orange County computer repair tech was arrested on suspicion of installing spyware on laptops that allowed him to photograph women showering and undressing in their homes.

Fullerton police Sgt. Andrew Goodrich said Trevor Harwell, 20, a technician for Rezitech Inc, installed a computer program that took control of the webcam on his clients' Mac laptops.

The software sent fake error messages telling users to "fix their internal sensor soon," and "try putting your laptop near hot steam for several minutes to clean the sensor," Goodrich said.

The error message prompted some victims took their laptops into the bathroom with them when they showered, the detective said.

"Once he had access, he would take photographs of the users, usually women," Goodrich said. "Often, the female victims were undressed or changing clothes."

Harwell was arrested Wednesday and later released on $50,000 bond.

Police began investigating when a Fullerton resident complained about suspicious messages appearing on his daughter's computer last year. They are looking for other victims.

Harwell used his cellphone to control a program called "Camcapture," store the photos on a remote server and download them to his computer.

Goodrich said detectives seized hundreds of thousands of still images and videos from Harwell's computer and identified several victims.

Investigators believe Harwell may have exploited computers connected to Biola University's internal network. Harwell is a former student at the La Mirada Christian college, which many of the victims attended.

According Orange County Superior Court records, Harwell faces 12 felony counts of computer access and fraud, the Orange County Register reported.

Messages left with Rezitech weren't returned late Wednesday. It was unclear if Harwell had obtained an attorney.

Rezitech spokesman Travis Austin said the company took immediate action to cut off Harwell's access to their systems and data, and is cooperating with investigators.

Harwell did not commit any of the alleged offenses while working for Rezitech, Austin said.