May 22, 2020

Sextortionists Take Advantage of Old Data Breach

Reading time: 4.5 minutes

For the most part, I like to keep my work life and my personal life separate. When you write for a porn blog, you get pretty used to telling people you’re a “copywriter” and not going into much detail about what kind of “copy” you’re writing.  Similarly, you don’t necessarily want to share much about your personal life with your readers.  However, in this rather unusual post, I am the story. 

It’s not as exciting as it sounds, dear reader. I am not starring in any upcoming titles nor have I directed any hot scenes for you.  No friends, I have been the victim of an online porn scam.  Or rather, someone attempted to victimize me, which I mostly found hilarious, given the nature of my work. 

On April 9th, I received an email. The sender’s name appeared as Lanette Koseluk from the email address wnshoshiekt@outlook.com.  The subject line was a password I frequently use for things where the security doesn’t matter much. My free subscription to the New York Times? This is the password I use. I’m required to enter a password to enter a site I’m never going to use again? This is that password. Something doesn’t need my address or credit card but still asks for a password? I use the same series of numbers and letters that meet the password requirements of nearly every site.  But what was it doing as the subject line of an email from an unfamiliar address? 

The answer is that that address was part of a moderately sophisticated internet scam.  The first sentence of the email, appalling in both grammar and intent, read, “I know, [password], is your password.” It continues, “You don’t know me and you’re thinking why you received this email, right?” Wrong.  I knew instantly why I was receiving this email.  Someone had managed to get ahold of my not-so-secure password and was trying to extort me with it.  It’s not exactly hard to figure out, however, even those who commit “moderately sophisticated” internet scams are serious bottom feeders - and not the cleverest cohort. 

The email went on to explain that the scammer had supposedly placed “a malware” on a pornsite I had visited which had turned my web browser into, a “Remote Desktop” and “keylogger,” which had given the scammer access to both my display screen and webcam.  “Right after that,” the scammer continues, “my software gathered all your contacts from your Messenger, Facebook account, and email account.”  

The scammer then claims that they made a “split-screen video” which showed what I was viewing alongside webcam footage of me “doing nasty things.” They demanded that I send $1900 in bitcoins to their account within 24 hours or they would forward said video to my entire contacts list. The scammer promises to erase the video if they get paid.  They also offer to provide “proof” of what they have, by sending the video to 5 random contacts if reply with the word “yes.”

Obviously, this kind of email is someone’s nightmare - but not mine. I am not even a little bit ashamed of the fact that I watch porn.  I don’t have to worry about how it might affect my career, since watching porn is literally my job. The consequences of being outed as a porn viewer basically consist of me having to go into more detail about my job to my in-laws.

As for the other side of the split-screen, no one wants to be recorded without their consent. However, what the scammer could not have possibly known is that I am a mom to a newborn child.  As any parent out there knows, this means (sadly) it’s been a few months since I have had the time, inclination, or even the medical clearance to do anything that could even remotely described as “nasty.”  

If the scammer had in fact managed to procure a video of me watching porn in the past few months, it would be the most boring video in history.  It would be me, switching between the porn tab and a google document, jotting down notes for a porn review.  You might hear a baby crying in the background.  You’d probably hear my dog barking.  About the most salacious thing, you might see would be me adjusting my bra strap.  

But, of course, the scammer didn’t have any such video. 

These scammers would have you believe that they have some amazing haking skills, however, in reality, this sexstortionist is no more a computer genius than his predecessor was a real Nigerian Prince.  According to Business Insider, this is not only a common scam, but your password was probably obtained as part of a bit data breach a few years ago and is now publically available.  

So what should you do if you receive a similar email? 

The most important thing is not to panic.  They do not have access to your webcam, contact list, or even your browser history.  Just an old password that literally everyone in world has access to, as a result of a major data breach several years ago.  

According to Naked Security, there are some concrete steps you can take to protect yourself.  Firstly, do not respond.  Even if you’re one of the millions of people currently on lockdown, and you are bored out of your mind, do not engage with cybercriminals.  All you will do is verify that your email address is current and active. Next, if the password they have is still active anywhere, change it immediately just in case. 

Lastly, a recent blog post from Kaspersky adds that a recent iteration of this scam includes a link offering “proof” of the video’s existence, without sharing it with 5 random contacts.  Do not fall for this.  They do not have a video of you.  What they have is malware, which will be automatically downloaded to your computer when you click on the link, thus creating serious issues for you and your computer.

Above all else, do not follow any instructions provided by these clowns. Never give them money. Never let fear con you into thinking they have something they do not.  Just delete the email and move on.