While shame and fear have been used as formidable weapons by scammers looking to extort money off their victims, the truth is that a majority of scammer threats have lacked basis if past reports is anything to go by.
Many years ago, scammers adopted sextortion as the new technique to target their victims through emails of unsuspecting internet users. The sextortion emails have served the operationalization of blackmail campaigns that have since become intertwined with dark web crime – several victims continue to pay up.
Expert reports show that the number of emails being sent to users, with claims that the senders have gained access to webcams and may decide to expose the footage on pornographic platforms, have been on the rise.
Criminals have been known to attach crypto wallet addresses to their sextortion emails. The addresses serve as payment channels for victims to send funds in exchange for the promise that their so-called “sensitive information” will not be exposed to the public.
Some Basic Ideas
Past research figures reveal that the millions of sextortion messages that were sent between September 2019 and January 2020 earned cybercriminals more than $500, 000 in profits.
The messages claimed that the cybercriminals had gained access to victim computers, and recorded the users visiting porn sites. The sextortionists threatened to circulate the videos with the victims’ friends if they failed to pay as much as $800 in bitcoin that would be transferred to a crypto wallet.
Experts intimate that a majority of the sextortionist messages are a common tool among low-level online scammers. The aspect is especially true in light of the fact that sextortion campaigns do not require special skills or expertise to orchestrate.
On one end, sending sextortionist messages does not require the hacking of victim computers to obtain personal information. The email addresses in cybercriminal possession is normally obtained from dark web breaches that result in the data being published in underground sites.
Thus, online users are advised to adhere to certain best practices to ensure their cybersecurity. First, it is not advisable to re-use passwords across different websites. Password managers also come in handy, along with the engagement of services such as HaveIBeenPawned.com or Google’s Password Checkup.
How Lucrative is Sextortion?
According to a 2020 report by Forbes, a single sextortion group has been making over $100,000 every month through an elaborate blackmailing scheme that targets online users from all walks of life.
The aspect of crypto transactions in sextortionist activities have provided an opportunity for researches to establish a starting point for their investigations.
One such cybersecurity firm, Sophos Labs embarked on a study to elucidate just how lucrative and widespread sextortionist schemes are. The researchers used the “follow the money” technique in tracking the crypto wallet activities of one particular sextortion campaign in revealing the criminal set up behind it.
According to research findings made by Sophos Labs in 2020, while the sextortion scams were not innovative in their approach, sophistication was noted in how cryptocurrencies and the dark web intersected.
A majority of the sextortion messages that were sent to victims were reinforced by particular obfuscation techniques that would successfully bypass email spam filters. Nonetheless, not many recipients saw the messages, or ended up paying the sums that were demanded by the criminals.
A good number of recipients who saw the messages fell for the trick and the researchers were able to record a total of 50.98 Bitcoin was made over a five-month study period.
Otherwise, the researchers acknowledged that ransomware campaigns remain to be the single most lucrative technique used by threat actors to make a living off dark web and crypto-enabled criminal systems.