California Computer Technician Trevor Harwell Suspected of Spying on Women

Women allegedly captured naked via web cameras.

June 10, 2011— -- Fullerton, Calif., police have arrested a computer technician suspected of using spyware to coax women into the showers with their computers so he could take naked photographs of them via web cameras.

Trevor Harwell, 20, who posted a $50,000 bond Wednesday after spending a few hours in jail, is alleged to have collected hundreds of thousands of images, according to police.

"It goes to the core fears a lot of people have," Sgt. Andrew Goodrich of the Fullerton Police Department said. "It's every fear that you're really not alone, that someone is watching your private moments."

Police have been on the case since last summer when a Fullerton resident reported messages popping up on his daughter's computer. The messages read, "You should fix your internal sensor soon. If unsure what to do, try putting your laptop near hot steam for several minutes to clean the sensor."

The message prompted many women to take their computers with them into the bathroom when they showered. As a result, police say, Harwell allegedly captured dozens of women in Orange and Los Angeles counties undressed or changing clothes by remotely accessing the cameras on their computers and recording without their knowledge.

Police say Harwell worked for the local computer repair company Rezitech when he installed the spyware application that allowed him to control the computers, but Rezitech released a statement denying that Harwell's alleged crimes took place on company time.

"Mr. Harwell did not commit any of the alleged offenses while performing work on behalf of Rezitech or while working on Rezitech computers or the computers of Rezitech customers," the statement said.

Police served Harwell with a search warrant in September, when they confiscated his computer. The seized items were sent to a forensics lab in Orange, Calif. The results led to Wednesday's arrest, which involved three police officers, at Harwell's Fullerton home.

"He came along peacefully," Goodrich said.

Harwell was formerly a student at Biola University, an evangelical Christian university in La Mirada, Calif., but was dismissed as a result of the police investigation in the fall. Several of the women who were allegedly targeted were students at the university.

The university released a statement saying that the campus public safety department partnered with police and will continue to do so. In addition, the university says the security of its computer network was not compromised by Harwell.

Courtney Patton, a student at Biola University who learned of the alleged computer scam today, said, "I would be mortified," adding that dorm life is bad enough without people peeping on your personal moments. "You barely have any privacy living on a college campus as it is, and so for that to be taken away would just be an awful, disgusting feeling."

Scams such as the one Harwell is accused of committing can be hard for consumers to detect, according to Kevin Haley, director of the information security company Symantec.

"A lot of the spyware makes a great effort to hide itself from the victim so you never know it's on the machine," he said. "That's why you need professional help, you need security software to find it."

Many computers have small lights that go on when the camera is activated. Haley suggests getting your computer checked out immediately if the light comes on unexpectedly.

ABC News Technology contributor Becky Worley also advises consumers to beware of pop-ups when browsing the Internet, and to regularly run an anti-virus program on their computer to reduce risks and protect sensitive information.

Harwell is due back in court July 21.

ABC News' Emily Gerlach contributed to this story.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events