Sextortion Is Evolving in the Age of Coronavirus

Much like everything else, online sextortion is getting worse

Ah yes, just what we needed right now: more sextortion.
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You may have noticed that coronavirus seems to be making everything worse, sometimes quite dramatically. Among the many things currently getting worse is online sextortion. According to a recent blog post from cybersecurity analysis site ISC, the cybercrime has begun to take on a new, more insidious form in recent months.

In the past, online sextortion has usually involved criminals saying a victim’s account has been hacked and claiming to have video proof of the victim watching sexual content. Criminals then threaten to release the compromising content to the public and demand immediate payment from the victim, usually in bitcoin.

These days, however, sextortionists are apparently exploring fun new ways to commit their crimes. According to the ISC blog post, the latest trend in sextortion involves pretending to be young women on dating apps, catfishing victims and gathering personal information. That personal info is then published, and victims are told they have to pay to have it removed.

Unfortunately, even if victims pay, their problems still might not be resolved.

“The problem is that, even if the victim pays, the forum is indexed by Google and other search engines,” senior ISC handler Xavier Mertens wrote in the post. “This makes the process to be unlisted very difficult, if not impossible!”

Various forms of online sextortion have reportedly been on the rise amid the pandemic, with The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reporting an increase in online extortion scams as more people are staying home and increasingly depending on the internet.

“After the height of COVID-19 … we saw a dramatic shift to capitalize on the fear and uncertainty of the pandemic,” Fahim Abbasi, senior security researcher at Trustwave, an information security company, told Fox News. “Sextortion continues to work because it plays off of realistic fears consumers have about online privacy and anonymity.”

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