Criminals take advantage of privacy flaws to steal passwords and threaten to release compromising photos, known as sextortion. Know how not to fall for the scam
Emails malicious they are sent every day and with varied contents. But in the last few days, a format has become popular: criminals are discovering their passwords to practice sexual blackmail. This practice is also known as sextortion, that when a person blackmails and threatens to release his compromising photos.
Although it is a serious matter, considering that people have had access to their passwords, you do not need to panic. Scammers often do not have their photos and videos. That is, they use this mechanism (blackmail) simply to take money from the victim.
How it works
This type of scam always starts with catch phrases, such as: “Your computer has been hacked!”, “I can also post to your social networks”, “You will be sorry!”, "Your computer has been hacked by hackers", or similar subjects. Recently, one of these emails from sextortion arrived at the Naked Security portal and shows well how the people behind this practice act.
I know, (PASSWORD), your password. You don't know me and you're probably wondering why you're receiving this email, correct? Well, I believe that $ 2900 is a reasonable price for our little secret. You will make payment via Bitcoin (if you don't know this, search for “how to buy bitcoin” on Google).
E-mail sent by the attacker.
Some of these contents of sexual scams vary, that is, the criminal does not always use the same text for all victims. And many people end up falling for the conversation, without even making a verification before.
Last week, Northern Ireland was hit by sextortion. More specifically, four cities (Antrim, Down, Tyrone and Derry) saw the number of cases explode. Local police have registered at least 40 complaints involving cyber criminals threatening people in the region.
According to the victims' reports, the scammers said they had compromising photos and footage of them accessing pornographic sites. They even say that they can send all the content to the families. In other emails, criminals threaten to publish the images. All action can be interrupted if the victim agrees to pay a fee. In cases registered in Northern Ireland, they asked for about 2,000 pounds.
In Brazil, cases were confirmed last December in Junda, in the interior of So Paulo. The hacker reported that he had been watching the person for months and revealed that the victim's computer was infected with malware from an adult website he visited. In an investigation, it was possible to notice that the Brazilian invader translated the text from English into Portuguese and, at random, he sent threats to people in the region.
In another case in the same period, the hacker made the same frequent threats in sextortion and required the victim to buy six prepaid cards from the company Acesso with a top up of R $ 50 each (R $ 300 in total).
With many young people on the internet due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), the authorities ask parents to keep an eye on their children.
"It is really important for parents and guardians to know what their loved ones are doing online, who their children are engaging with and what websites they are visiting."
warned Simon Walls, chief superintendent of the Northern Ireland Police Service (PSNI).
How do they discover your passwords?
The most likely explanation that criminals of sextortion take advantage of the classic privacy on other platforms to steal data and start threats. In 2012, millions of user passwords were leaked from the LinkedIn and they started to be marketed on the dark web. But not only with the professional social network. Other platforms are always registering polls with leaking user data.
In 2016, an attack had access to the data of ten thousand users of the Facebook. Information from almost 33 million people using the Twitter were leaked and sold on the internet in June 2016. Still in the same year, the Yahoo! confirmed an attack, which had access to at least 500 million user data. It is worth mentioning that the discovery of the leak often takes years.
People who practice sextortion apply social engineering: they know that most of us use the same password for different platforms. Soon, they start testing the password leaked on other social networks or selling to a person with the aim of accessing their data.
As much as in the e-mail the criminal presents his old password, this can be advantageous for him, because the victim can be scared and follow what he says.
According to the Australian Cyber Security CenterIn a country where there has also been an increase in the number of cases now in April, invaders often do not have access to the contents.
The information in the email is obtained on the internet itself from previously known data breaches ”.
explained the Australian Cyber Security Center.
Cyber fraud company Kroll explains that between email scams, 20 to 35% of the people involved are unrelated to what I report by attackers. Therefore, when you receive these messages, you only need to delete them. What if the person submits their passwords? See below what you should do.
What to do if you fall into sextortion on the internet
Experts explain that the first thing to do is not to despair. After all, an email with an old password does not mean that your account has been hacked. Check out the main tips below:
- As soon as you receive the contact of the scammer from sextortion, do not answer the email, even if he has your password;
- If the password he entered in the email is actually your current one, log into your accounts (with the password he has access to) and make the change immediately;
- Make sure you have antivirus installed on your computer and be sure to update it frequently;
- There is also an online platform where you can see if the e-mail address is involved in some recent leak. At the Have I Been Pwned, you only need to enter your email and the site will search for possible violations;
- We know it is difficult, but it is always recommended to use a different password for each platform you use (different passwords for: email, Facebook, Instagram and other accounts). In order not to get lost with so much credential created, use password managers.
Finally, another important one to be taken enable two-step authentication (or two-factor authentication) in your accounts. It is available in most messaging and social networking applications. Here's how to enable this additional layer of security on major online services:
Every time you receive a suspicious email, be sure to check where it came from. Check if there are any links who may have viruses and search the Google about the possible company or person, one of the recommended procedures for not falling into scams. And you, reader, have you received similar emails? Then share it with us here in the comments.
Sources: Naked Security; The Journal; iT News; Coventry Telegraph.