The rise of sextortion: Nude selfies are fun until someone gets blackmailed

Attackers are using online dating services to convince lonely people to send nude photos, and that's when the blackmail begins.

You don't have to be a celebrity to get nailed by a nude photo. According to a report by Trend Micro, sextortion--the use of compromising photos or videos to extract money from victims--is on the rise.

The concept isn't entirely new. Anthony Stancl is currently serving a 15-year prison term for posing as a female on Facebook to lure male students from his high school into sharing sexually compromising photos. He then blackmailed his victims with the threat of making the photos public to force them to perform sexual acts with him.

What sets this campaign of sextortion apart is that it has now been adopted by organized cybercrime organizations and is being used systematically to wreak havoc on lonely, desperate victims online.

According to the Trend Micro report, crime rings are setting up fake Facebook accounts and posing as flirtatious, available women. They invite victims to join a Skype video-chat for cybersex and record the session without the victim's knowledge. The video is then used to blackmail the victim into paying a ransom--typically about $1,000--or risk having the explicit content made public on YouTube.

In some cases the perpetrators pretend there are connection issues and direct the victim to download an app to help troubleshoot the problem. The app is actually malware that gives the attackers access to the victim's PC and enables them to collect information about their contacts. The blackmail then focuses on sending the lewd photos or videos to all of the victim's contacts instead of or in addition to posting it online.

The ring of sextortion scams tracked by Trend Micro is focused in Asia, but there's no reason to believe it won't eventually spread to other regions of the world. Trend Micro claims the sextortion schemes it discovered involve cybercriminals from various nations and cultures working together. Trend Micro notes that attackers are not only evolving technically--developing better tools and processes--but also improving social engineering tactics. The result is attacks that are sophisticated and prey on victims who are most vulnerable.

Don't fall victim to sextortion

Being a victim of sextortion will cost you one way or the other--either your cash or your reputation. And it all starts with someone sending a photo or video to someone else online.

If you wouldn't want something shared with the world, you should think very seriously about sharing it online with even one person. Major social sites like Twitter and Reddit will take down compromising images that are posted without individual consent, but such safeguards remain rare.

It should be obvious not to share compromising material with a random stranger you just met online, or even someone you've communicated with frequently but never met in person. However, even a formerly trusted friend or romantic interest could turn against you. Just think about that before you hit Send.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags sexually explicitskypeblackmail schemetrend microsecurityphishing attackcybercrimeyoutubeFacebook

More about FacebookSkypeTrend Micro

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Tony Bradley

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts