We’ve seen lots of examples recently of people falling for a new scam where they end up paying thousands of pounds in Bitcoin to prevent potentially embarrassing videos from being released. At TecSec, two members of staff, including our Director, have even been sent hoax emails of this nature, so we really do speak from experience.
The so-called “sextortion” scam has now been revealed as nothing more than a clever bluff. And can be prevented with a webcam cover costing just £3, and few other very simple steps.
The scam is clever because it targets the deep emotional fears of intelligent people with lots to lose.
They get an unsolicited email from a scammer claiming to have a webcam video recording of them browsing the web during their personal time. It’s not specific about what has been recorded, which means the reader jumps to their own conclusion.
Critically, the scam email also contains their password, which makes them believe they have indeed been hacked and secretly videoed. Some people submit to the spammer’s requests in desperation, sending off £1,000 or more in Bitcoin, to prevent the video being released.
Most people don’t realise that this hasn’t been targeted specifically at them, and there is no video recording at all. It’s a generic Phishing email which is sent to millions of people whose security has been breached in the past.
Every laptop and phone released these days have built in webcams and whilst it is possible for the cameras to be operated without people realising it, this is very rare.
Our advice is to do three things:
Fit sliding webcam covers to all of your devices
Reset all passwords and use a password manager. This fills in passwords automatically, so you can use a set of unintelligible characters rather than a word they’ll have to remember.
Finally, don’t panic if you do get a suspicious looking email, and don’t be embarrassed. Talk to a data security expert who sees this sort of thing every day and can offer invaluable insight and advice.