The bad guys have compromised two laptops, owned by my main character and his daughter. The question is, what can they do with them, and how (on a higher level) do they do it?

Danny (main character) received a thumb drive in the mail. I can make that any size needed. His wife tried to open the files on both his laptop and his daughter's, triggering whatever needs to happen. Right now I've written that all she saw was
"I tried looking at the flash drive, but we think it's been corrupted."
I raised an eyebrow since my mouth was full of chicken.
"Every time we tried to read it, we'd get a pop-up about needing to format the drive because Windows couldn't read it. Tired three or four times on both yours and Dani's laptops. No luck."
What I want to happen is that the bad guys have access to whatever Danny happens to be viewing online, like they can see his searches, read emails (possibly), and be able to activate the webcam and microphone. Assume a Windows 7 Home Premium laptop of average specs for the time. Danny is computer literate, but somewhat lazy about keeping things updated that don't update automatically.

  1. This stuff was all doable in 2011, correct? I can't imagine that there have been that many technical advances in viruses in three years.
  2. Reading the emails isn't critical, but I assume it was possible and might be handy. What's the easiest way for the bad guys to do that? Key-logging, or just sent a copy of the email to another address? How would they read inbound mail?
  3. How is the information packaged and sent to the bad guys? Would it have been possible to do it almost real-time in 2011? Assume the good guys live in San Diego/Chula Vista area, so they have cable internet.
  4. They don't want to communicate with the webcam, but rather use it for surveillance, to see/hear what's going on in Danny's house. I know monitoring software can remotely activate cameras, but how is that data delivered to the person monitoring the system? Is that delivery typically invisible to the user?

Thanks for the help!