Police arrest Laval computer hacker

This morning, investigators of the RCMP Integrated Technological Crime Unit (ITCU) arrested a Laval hacker believed to be at the origin of a botnet – a group of computers infected by a virus and remotely controlled by a hacker. The man allegedly infected his employer’s computer network to commit some of the crimes he is accused of.

It is believed that, 24-year old, Joseph Mercier programmed himself the software (virus) used in the botnet infrastructure. With this software, he infected servers in Canada and abroad taking control of a vast network of zombie computers. Among his victims are two school boards in the Montérégie area.

The botnet allowed the suspect to remotely log into the computers of private individuals and legitimate businesses. He was then able to log keystrokes, copy computer files for the purpose of stealing the identity of users, visualize and record users’ webcam images, spread malware, and send out spam messages. All this was done without users’ knowledge.

While the botnet was mainly concentrated in Québec, the investigation revealed that it also took control of servers located in Russia, the Arab Emirates, France and the United States. Many more computers, including some at the suspect’s employer, were infected to allow the hacker to commit computer crimes. It should be noted that the suspect was in charge of computer security for the company where he worked.

The investigation that led to charges against Joseph Mercier was initiated in December 2010. A number of searches have been conducted in this case to date. These searches were carried out at a victim’s place, at the suspect’s residence and at his employer’s. During the investigation, the RCMP obtained the collaboration of the Longueil and Québec City police services.

Joseph Mercier is charged with unauthorized use of computers under section 342 of the Criminal Code. He will appear in court in Laval on July 19 in the afternoon to face the charges filed against him.

The ITCU’s investigation continues to uncover potential accomplices of the suspects as well as possible victims.

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