A new phenomenon is circulating on the internet: sextortion. With this lousy scam, internet users are blackmailed with nude pictures or videos.
Sextortion is a new online scam that tries to blackmail its victims through secretly recorded nude photos. The recipient is informed by e-mail that they have been observed while watching porn or other sexual acts via the webcam. Some of the victims panic out of shame and respond to the blackmail attempt by paying a ransom – without knowing whether there is really intimate footage of them. The term sextortion is made up of the two words “sex” and “extortion” (blackmail) and unscrupulously uses the fear of those affected by exposing intimate moments.
This is how the sextortion fraud works
You receive an email claiming a scammer claimed you was recorded during intimate, sexual moments. At the same time, threats are made to publish this image or video material if no ransom is paid. “Sextortion is dangerous and can have dramatic consequences, including suicide of the person concerned. Cyber criminals expect the Covid 19 pandemic to have a higher chance of success because people spend more time on zoom and in front of their computer,” says Marek Beno , Avast malware analyst.
The extent of the fraud during the Covid-19 pandemic is shown by the latest figures from the malware analyst: Over 12,400 attacks were registered by the Avast software in Germany, over 8,700 attacks in Switzerland and over 2,100 attacks on Austrian users. “As scary as e-mails are, we advise users to stay calm if they see a message like this in their inbox and just ignore it,” said Beno.
Sextortion: more facts and figures
- The majority of victims of sextortion are men, but women are also affected. These are both young people and adults.
- The e-mails or chats are often written in broken German, French or English, but as the example above shows, fraudsters also send e-mails in perfect language.
- Since the perpetrators are mostly abroad, the ransom payment should also go to a foreign account.
- There are always cases in which the victims pay the requested sum, but the image or video material is still published – or new demands are made.
These two types of lousy scam are common
1. Alleged victim observation via zoom conference
Attackers claim (incorrectly) that they have access to your device and camera. The reason: You have exploited weaknesses in the Zoom software.2. Alleged installation of malware
In the second most common variant, the fraudsters claim to have smuggled malware onto your computer. The malware records all actions via the microphone and webcam and downloads all data – including chats, social media and contacts – from the device. In the vast majority of cases this is not the case.
How to ward off sextortion attacks
- Treat sextorion attempts the way you treat spam emails – so: just ignore them. Do not react and do not under any circumstances pay a ransom (usually via Bitcoin payment).
- If the attacker enclosed a leaked password from you, change it immediately to a long, complex password.
- To be on the safe side, install premium online protection on all of your devices to protect yourself against sex tortion.