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Hackers make $500,000 from terrifying ‘sextortion’ scam

A worrying new scam that uses recipients’ real passwords to trick them into paying a Bitcoin ransom has earned hackers tons of cash.

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The cyber scammers made approximately $500,000 from the ‘sextortion’ emails. 

Numerous people reported receiving messages this month that includes a password they used in the past and the sender claims to have hacked the target’s webcam to record them watching porn and ‘doing nasty things.’ 

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The sender would then instruct the recipient to pay up, or they would make the alleged video public to their family and friends.    Cybersecurity experts say hackers were able to make a big bang for their buck, despite exerting minimal effort.

‘What is worrying is that scammers were able to siphon off [$500,000] from old password dumps, with very little effort,’ Suman Kar, CEO of cybersecurity firm Banbreach, told Motherboard. 

Banbreach examined 770 digital wallets and found that about 230 had logged more than 1,000 transactions, receiving about 70.8 bitcoin, Motherboard noted. This amounts to approximately $457,583. The firm obtained different bitcoin addresses from comments on articles as well as consumer reports from India. Banbreach believes that the passwords used in the scam were from a LinkedIn breach, but it’s not completely clear.

How can you protect your information online?

Because hackers are becoming more creative, security experts are warning that consumers need to take all possible measures to protect their identities:

1. Make your authentication process two-pronged whenever possible. You should choose this option on websites that offer it because when an identity-specific action is required on top of entering your password and username, it becomes significantly harder for fraudsters to access your information.

2. Secure your phone. Avoiding public Wifi and installing a screen lock are simple steps that can hinder hackers. Some fraudsters have begun to immediately discount secure phones altogether. Installing anti-malware can also be beneficial.

3. Subscribe to alerts. A number of institutions that provide financial services, credit card issuers included, offer customers the chance to be notified when they detect suspicious activity. Turn those notifications on to stay informed about credit card activity linked to your account.

4. Be careful when issuing transactions online. Again, some institutions offer notifications to help with this, which will alert you when your card is used online. It might also be helpful to institute limits on amounts that can be spent with your card online. 

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