Sunday 1 October 2023

Sextortion: in recent months there has been a peak of activity

It comes in the form of creepy email claiming your webcam has been compromised, you’ve been caught checking out pornography and it’s time to pay up. What to do if an email of this type reaches you?

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As explained by Kaspersky Lab, ‘sextortion’ (sextorsión in Spanish) is a form of sexual blackmail in which cybercriminals have private content of users (usually photos or videos) and threaten to make public on the Internet, unless the victims pay with a favor, sometimes of a sexual nature … or the extortionist demands more, but mostly that the victim makes a payment.

The extortion usually comes in the form of an email or a text message on your mobile device, telling you of a security breach on your system, that they have videos of you taken from your computer’s camera, images that you certainly don’t want your contacts to see.

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The extortionist talks about the access to your password(s) and that they have full access to your computer or device and are in possession of the compromising material and your contacts and will make it all public if you don’t pay.

Unfortunately, according to publications on the subject, point out that many fall victim to the scam – yes, scam – and pay out millions in bitcoins, the favorite currency of online scammers.

If an email of this type comes to you, what should you do?

Some of us get dozens of sextortion scam emails every month to our work and personal accounts, demanding payment or else.

The emails that identify this type of scam includes words like “trying to reach you” or “urgent response required” or “FINAL WARNING.”

We are aware of your little and big secrets … yeah, you do have them. We saw and recorded your doings on porn websites. Your tastes are so weird, you know.

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“You have the last chance to save your social life. I am not kidding. I give you the last 72 hours to make the payment before I send the video to all your friends and associates”. It can be terrifying.

Interestingly these emails almost never fall into spam, as scammers use lines of famous writers in an invisible text in the email, so that the robots don’t identify the email as junk mail.

While it’s easy to be scared into sending payment, the reality is that these emails can be ignored and deleted. Best it not even open the email and mark it as spam or unwanted email, if your email client has the ability, to block the sender.

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It’s a good idea after doing so to run an anti-virus scan on all your devices to be sure that there is no malware installed.

But, what if the threat is real?

Remember, the extortioner has given you a window of opportunity to respond. Use this time to determine whether the threat is real. Just in case it’s not a scam. And do not delete the email: preserve the evidence!

Preventative measures

  • Make sure that you use top-quality, up-to-date, updated computer security software.
  • Cover your computer’s camera – a strip of black electrical tape is good enough.
  • Make sure that your operating system is up-to-date. This probably won’t prevent spam, but the more secure your systems, the better.
  • Make sure that all your passwords are both unique and difficult to guess.

Why do scammers have your email address?

If the spam message appears to have been sent from your email address, it has been spoofed. Such scams usually claim that the recipient’s email was hacked, and that’s why the email appears to be sent from it. However, this is not true and you should not worry about your account being hacked.

Spoofing email addresses for a long time. Without getting into the technical jargon, tools that enable email spoofing are surprisingly easy to get. The truth though lies in the email headers.

Another way of getting your email is that your computer has infected, especially if you have opened a suspicious email attachment or clicked on an unknown link.

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"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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