The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

National News

November 8, 2013

FBI wants hacker who helped catch cheating lovers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Catching a cheating lover online using commercial spyware seems to be easier than nabbing the hacker behind it.

The FBI this week added to its list of most wanted cybercriminals a former San Diego college student who developed an $89 program called “Loverspy” or “Email PI.” Sold online from his apartment, the program would send the suspected cheater an electronic greeting card that, if opened, would install malicious software that could capture emails and instant messages, even spy on someone using the victim’s own webcam.

Carlos Enrique Perez-Melara, 33, has eluded authorities since his July 2005 indictment. His last known whereabouts were in El Salvador, where he was born.

“These are sophisticated folks who know how to hide themselves on the Internet,” John Brown, a section chief with the FBI who oversees operations in the agency’s cyber division, said of Perez-Melara and creators of other “hacking-for-hire” services.

In one case earlier this year, a New York police detective was arrested for spending more than $4,000 on hacking services to obtain the emails of more than a dozen of his colleagues. Many of the operators tend to be based overseas.

The case of Perez-Melara, 33, is noteworthy because he appears to have made relatively little money on the scheme, unlike others on the FBI list who were accused of bilking millions of dollars from businesses and Internet users worldwide. But Perez-Melara, a native of El Salvador who was in the United States on a student visa in 2003 when he sold the spyware, allegedly helped turn average computer users into sophisticated hackers who could stalk their victims.

Loverspy was designed “with stealth in mind, claiming that it would be impossible to detect by 99.9 percent of users,” according to a July 2005 federal indictment of Perez-Melara.

Brown said Perez-Melara was added to the FBI most wanted list in part because the former college student has been so difficult to find. The government is now offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

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