A new kind of scam has accrued almost $1 million in bitcoin from frightened porn viewers, says a new report — and they’re staining the good names of Shakespeare and Austen to do it.
According to the report, from cybersecurity firm Area 1, this scam involves a threatening email, in which the victim is told videos or pictures of them watching pornography will be leaked to their contacts, along with whatever they were watching, unless they pay a ransom in Bitcoin. That hits some soft spots, so I can see why it works — threatening to expose intimate images and porn preferences is a double whammy.
Needless to say, it’s fake — they don’t actually have such videos of the victim, but are hoping to scare them into paying up. It’s not exactly new that scammers try to use language that will trigger fear — a quick look at the spam folder on my work email shows things like “Trying to Reach You,” and “Reply Urgent.” But in this case the sad part is that it works. According to Area 1’s report, the scammers have earned $949,000 from this, as the blockchain record associated with their digital wallet shows.
Possibly the most disgusting part of this, at least to me, is that the scammers apparently have found a way of getting emails past spam filters by “[pasting] lines from Shakespeare or Jane Austen in invisible text in the email.” The idea that they’re using the language of two of the greatest writers in the world to worm their way into inboxes makes me want to break something.
According to Fortune, one of the tactics the authors of these scam letters apparently use to get you is showing you a password you’ve used at some point. PCMag also showed what one of these emails looked like: essentially it claims to have accessed your computer and contacts via “keylogger” and “remote desktop.” But if you’ve ever been part of a large-scale security breach on a website (basically, if you’ve ever been on Facebook), then you’ve likely had a password exposed at some point. That’s where they got it, most likely, but they’re hoping this extra bit of personal information will convince you they do, in fact, have access to your computer.
So, just to make sure we’re all the same page here: if you get one of these emails, don’t pay. And, to make absolutely sure you know they don’t have those images of you, cover your webcam unless you’re actively using it. You could get a fancy cover from Amazon if you want to be extra, but even if you don’t, tape is cheap and effective. Tape is your friend.