Email Scam Artists Threaten To Release Sex Videos: Barracuda

Cybercriminals are threatening people that their sex lives will be exposed if they don’t pay large sums in bitcoin, according to a new threat report from Barracuda.

Barracuda Labs examined over 1,000 such campaigns and has found 24,000 similar emails since September. The scam apparently started in July. Here’s how it works.

The attackers claim in phishing emails that they have recorded videos on the victim’s computer. The email contains a subject line consisting of one word: the recipient’s password. Or they may use the phrase “Your password is,” then insert the password.

The passwords are legitimate — they were probably obtained from the AntiPublic Combo List, a list of more than 500 million leaked passwords revealed through a number of breaches that was made available in 2016. There are no videos of any kind.

The email also informs the user that his or her computer has been infected with a RemoteAccess Trojan 9 (or a “RemoteDesktop,” as the email says) from a pornography web site. Remote-access Trojans are common, but are not being used in this case.

The felons continue that they have videos of the user watching explicit sexual videos, and say they will send them to their email and social network contacts unless the bitcoin is paid. Some intended victims of this extortion are contacted multiple times.

One woman interviewed by Barracuda was blackmailed in a different way in a series of two emails. The first email told her that her computer was hacked, and that they had videos of her visiting a pornographic site. However, the second email that used an older password said they had a video of weird things that happened in her office. Hackers claimed they had access to her computer for years.

“Even though I know it’s a scam, it’s still unsettling,” she says, according to Barracuda. “It’s very realistic.”

It’s not clear what the response could be on this scam. Most likely, few recipients have viewed sex videos online. But if even a tiny percentage have recently done so — or think they may have — they might fall for it, making the effort profitable. The sums being demanded range from $1,000 to $7,000.

Similar emails are being sent in the Spanish and German languages. But these seem to go to spam lists not the password list. In addition to the U.S., these types of emails were also sent to targets in Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Spain, Guatemala, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Japan, Sri Lanka, Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Barracuda advises consumers to:

  • Check email addresses and passwords for their involvement
  • Periodically check email addresses and passwords for their involvement in breaches.
  • Create complex passwords
  • Use a password manager
  • Schedule regular IT security checks
  • Ensure browsers and operating systems are up to date
  • Stay informed
  • Get a camera cover or disable your computer’s camera.
  • Don’t react out of fear.


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