Extortion Threats On The Rise

Nov 05, 2018

Dealing with Phishing: Extortion Threats on the Rise

Over the past few months, we have seen a resurgence in extortion emails being sent to our clients.  These emails claim that an attacker has caught you in some kind of compromising situation by breaking into your webcam and installing malware on your computer. We’ve investigated thousands of emails sent in by clients and have seen the same three or four templates used on all of these emails.  When we look closely, some of the tactics used to intimidate people are legitimately disturbing. Although these are the tactics we have seen most often it is important to understand these tactics change often in order to take advantage of those they intend to attack.

Attacker Tactics

  • One of your old passwords may be on the dark web, and they may use that to try to blackmail you
  • They may spoof your email address to make it look as if the email came from your account
  • They will ask for $500-$800 paid to a bitcoin wallet as a payment to “delete your data”
  • They make accuse you of visiting an adult website while they record your webcam
  • They will threaten to contact all of your friends and family if you don’t pay promptly.

Overall, these attacks are preying on the recipient and are hoping to trigger a scared or guilty reaction that gets a payment. As far as we have seen, in over 2,000 reports there has been no actual malware found on any of these computers. The FBI also issued alert number I-080718-PSA on this topic recently, and have found that these emails are simply misleading. To protect yourself from these attacks you can take these precautions:

Precaution Tips

  • Only open emails from known sources
  • Make sure to audit your bank accounts on a normal basis to ensure no fraudulent activity has occurred
  • Do not engage in any communication with unknown senders
  • Do not store pictures or other sensitive information online or on any mobile platform
  • Do not share personal information via email, often emails requesting this information seem legitimate but are often attacks
  • Set all social media accounts to the highest security setting
  • When sending personal information such as credit card information, to a website ensure it is secure by verifying the URL prefix includes https, or the status bar displays a “lock” icon

If you believe you have been a victim of an attack make sure to reach out to your local FBI field office. To file a complaint go to www.ic3.gov.

Information requested for a complaint should include the email sent from the attacker, header information and Bitcoin address if possible.