Sex extortion or sextortion has been around for years on the Internet with criminals tricking people into performing sexual acts online that are recorded and then used to blackmail the victims. In other cases, hackers have gained access to the webcams of women and used them to take photographs of the women who unwittingly undressed in front of computers in their rooms, not knowing they were being recorded. In one notorious case, Miss Teen USA, Cassidy Wolf refused to be a victim of sextortion and helped law enforcement find and prosecute Jared James Abrahams who was sentenced to 18 months in prison in March of 2014.
Now, however, as with many scams, sextortion has evolved. In the latest incarnation, uncovered by cybersecurity firm Trend Micro, Cybercriminals in Asia set up fake profiles on social media such as Facebook and then lure their victims to platforms with both video and voice capabilities such as Skype and entice them into performing sexual acts, which are recorded by the cybercriminals. In a new twist on this scam, however, the cybercriminals then pretend that they are having audio difficulties and convince their victims into downloading a specific Android app on to their Android smartphone which they represent will remedy the problem. However, instead of fixing the problem, the app is malware that steals all of the contact information stored on the victim’s smartphone. The cybercriminal then threatens to send the videos to everyone on the victim’s contact list unless the victim pays a ransom.
The best solution to any problem is to avoid the problem altogether. An easy and decidedly low-tech way to protect yourself from webcam surveillance is to merely put a post it over the camera when you are not using it. If you are going to indulge in cybersex or phone sex, it should only be done with people whom you totally trust. Engaging in such activities with strangers or people you do not know well is asking for trouble. Also, make sure that all of your electronic devices including your smartphone and computer are protected with the latest updated security software. Even then, however, no security software is 100% effective against the latest viruses and malware so you should never click on links or download attachments unless you have absolutely confirmed that they are legitimate and you should never download apps from anywhere other than legitimate app stores. The risk of malware is just too high.