Sextortion Scammers Have Found a New Way to Trick People, and it Works Wonders

By Bill Toulas / December 8, 2018

Sextortion attempts are carried out through email spam campaigns and are targeted to a wide array of the population. The content of the email messages can be summed up in the following: “we have gained access to your files and data, and we have sexual images/videos of you. If you don’t pay us a ransom, we will share them with your friends and family.” Some of them claim to have hacked the webcam, others the user’s phone or the social media accounts, and others claim to have gained access to the computer’s cache.

In almost all cases, no hacker has gained access to any user files, and that is why the sextortion scams are called scams in the first place. In spite of that fact though, many people seemed to fall for the claims made by the scammers and paid the ransoms. As the years passed by, internet users became more suspicious and experienced in dealing with this type of emails, spam filters became better, and so the sextortion campaigns started to wither. That is until recently when spammers devised a new way to trick people, taking advantage of our innate curiosity.

During the past week, many users in the United States received a sextortion email that claimed to have a video of the user pleasuring himself during a visit to adult sites, offering a download link as proof. This step ignites the curiosity of the users who think of it lightly and want to see if the blackmailing has any basis indeed. The problem is that the download link leads to the reception of a ZIP file that contains executables infected by the AZORult malware, and also the GandCrab Ransomware of course. AZORult is a credential and payment card information stealer that has been recently upgraded to be able to steal cryptocurrency while strengthening its obfuscation methods.

What all of this practically means is that users who simply went through the process of running the files out of pure curiosity will find themselves trapped, and even if they weren’t planning to pay any ransom or believed the spammer’s claims in the first place, they now managed to do the damage all by themselves. Scammers keep on enriching their tactics and rotating the themes so that people who learn about a threat one week cannot distinguish it next week if something changes. According to a Cisco Talos report published earlier in the year, scammer gangs can make up to $150k in a period of two months, so the people get deceived by their tactics are still many.

What is your experience with sextortion scams? Does your spam filter work well against them? Share your thoughts in the comments section below, or visit our social pages on Twitter and Facebook to discuss this and other topics with our online community.

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