Anatomy of a sextortion scam
Since this July, attackers are increasingly spreading sextortion-type attacks across the internet. Cisco Talos has been investigating these campaigns over the past few months. In many cases the spammers harvested email addresses and passwords from a publicly available data breach, and then used this data to facilitate their sextortion attacks. While the attackers do not actually have any compromising videos showing the victim, the emails claim to have explicit videos that they will distribute if the victim doesn’t pay the extortion payment by a certain time. By including the recipient’s password along with their demands for payment, the attackers hope to legitimize their claims about having compromising material concerning the victim. While these attacks have been in the wild for months, Talos wanted to take a closer look at some of these campaigns to see why users were being tricked into sending the attackers large amounts of bitcoin despite the attackers’ empty threats. By examining some of the sextortion spam campaigns in detail, our researchers were able to gain insight into how these criminals operate.