Police claim there are dozens of victims in Orange and Los Angeles counties.
Authorities said Trevor Harwell, a 20-year-old man from Fullerton, was taken into custody following a yearlong investigation. He was released on $50,000 bail.
Harwell was a student at Biola University at the time the investigation started. He worked as a computer technician for his father's company called Rezitech that provides help to Macintosh users. He also offered in-home computer repair service for friends and associates.
Police said Harwell installed a spyware-type program called Camcapture on dozens of computers that would allow him remote access to the user's computer. Harwell would allegedly turn on the webcam through the Internet and photograph his victims in their homes or dorm rooms.
Sgt. Andrew Goodrich of the Fullerton Police Department said hundreds of thousands of images were collected as part of the investigation.
Some of the photos are of women taking showers. Goodrich said Harwell got the victims to take their laptops into the bathroom by having a pop-up message show up on their computers that the sensor to their webcam was dirty, and the way to clean it was to take it to a hot, steamy environment like a shower.
"The victim would think that it was a valid system message coming from the computer," Goodrich said.
Police were alerted after a victim brought her computer in to be repaired somewhere else, and they noticed that there was software operating in the background. They then urged her to call police.
Many of the victims attended Biola University. Police believe they have identified all of the victims.
Although authorities said Harwell installed the spyware when he had physical access to the victims' computers, computer experts warn that spyware also can be sent in an email.
"They ought to have good security on their computer, whether they're afraid of an incident or not, because that's going to keep this type of software off their machine," said Kevin Haley of Symantec.
Computer users should watch out for obvious red flags.
"If you see the light of your camera go on...and you know you're not operating it, then that's probably a good warning sign," said Haley.
Rezitech, the company Harwell worked for, released a statement, saying, "Upon learning of the alleged actions of Mr. Harwell, Rezitech took immediate and aggressive action to ensure that Mr. Harwell's access to all our customer systems and data was eliminated."
Anyone with information about the incident is urged to call the Fullerton Police Department at (714) 738-5327.