Few things are scarier than a direct threat to you and your family. Whether it comes by email, text, or phone call, an extortion message can feel like a disgusting violation of privacy.
But add sexual blackmail to the mix, and all bets are off. If you’ve ever gotten an email from a hacker claiming they’ve got you on tape watching porn, you know exactly how disturbing “sextortion” scams are. Tap or click here to see why they’re back in the news again.
After skyrocketing in popularity during 2019, sextortion scams are now showing up in new varieties. Some of these messages are run-of-the-mill malware threats while others invoke fears over COVID-19. In any case, there’s no reason to take a single one of these messages seriously. Yes, really! Here’s why.
Get this message? It’s literally spam (and nothing more)
Sextortion emails are a major nuisance the world over, but they’re an extremely profitable one. According to Sophos’ Naked Security blog, these virtual threats have netted cybercriminals over $100,000 a month over the past five months (that’s in U.S. dollars, too!)
The reason? These messages are absolutely terrifying, and the typical ransom lies somewhere in the realm of $200 to $2000 per email. Not everyone pays up, of course, but setting the ransom as high as these criminals do makes the process worth their while — even if they only catch a few victims out of thousands of emails.
Since 2019, sextortion emails have shown a massive spike in popularity. And for 2020, they’re taking on a few new forms to bypass spam filters and savvy netizens.
One sextortion email discovered by Sophos in March actually threatens to infect you and your family with COVID-19, of all things, if you don’t pay the ransom.
“What αm Ι cαpable οf dοing? Ιf I wαnt, I cοuld eνen infect yοur whοle fαmily with the CοronαVirus, reνeαl all of yοur secrets. There αre cοuntless thiηgs I cαn dο.”
We’ve heard of hackers attacking computers with viruses, but not literal ones!
Here’s another sample sextortion email that reached Sophos’ inbox:
Subject: High level of risk. Your account has been hacked. Change your password.
Í am a hacker who has access to yoür operatíng system.
Í also have full access to yoür accoüňt.
Í’ve been watchíng yoü for a few months now.
The fact ís that yoü were ínfected wíth malware throügh an adült síte that yoü vísíted.
Íf yoü are not famílíar wíth thís, Í wíll explaín.
Trojan Vírüs gíves me füll access and control over a compüter or other devíce.
Thís means that Í can see everythíng on yoür screen, türn on the camera and mícrophone, büt yoü do not know aboüt ít.
Í also have access to all yoür contacts and all yoür correspondence.
Why yoür antívírüs díd not detect malware?
Answer: My malware üses the dríver, Í üpdate íts sígnatüres every 4 hoürs so that yoür antívírüs ís sílent.
Í made a vídeo showíng [REDACTED] on the left…