A Bengaluru techie got an email threatening to expose his porn viewing habits to his entire contact list. Except, Vishal says, he’s never watched porn on his laptop.

We know what porn you like Bluru techie gets threats from cyber blackmailers
news Cyber Crime Friday, July 27, 2018 - 08:50

What would you do if someone sent you an email claiming they are aware of your porn habits? Would you be inclined to believe them if the email mentions one of your old passwords as proof?

Such emails are scams that come with a very straightforward blackmail threat: Pay up the ransom amount or get your porn habits revealed to everyone in your email list.

One such email with a threat to ‘expose his porn habits if a ransom of 2,200 dollars is not paid’ landed on the inbox of Vishal B (name changed), a Bengaluru-based techie on Wednesday at 2.14 am. The scammer gave him a one-day deadline to make the payment in the form of cryptocurrency, Bitcoin.

The email read, “I placed malware on porn vids (sex sites) & you know what, you visited same sex web site to have fun (you get my drift). And when you got busy watching our videos, your internet browser began working as a RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) with a key logger which provided me with accessibility to your device as well as your web cam controls. Right after that, the software program collected your entire contacts from your messenger, facebook, and email,”

Such emails are called “blackmail scam” that is being increasingly reported to law enforcement agencies from across the world in recent weeks. The email Vishal received is supposedly the first such incident that has come to light from India.

‘Shut up and dance’

The scam is similar to what is shown in the Season three episode of Black Mirror, “Shut up and Dance”, where a teenage boy is blackmailed into committing criminal and other bizarre acts by a hacker possessing the video of the protagonist masturbating to child pornography.

The sender of the email, too, follows a similar modus operandi, with the email claiming that a sex tape of Vishal was created after his laptop webcam was hacked.

The email claimed that the first half of the video displayed what he was allegedly viewing and the next half showed the capture of the web camera. The sender threatened to release the video to 15 of his contacts if he asked for proof of the existence of the footage. The link to make the payment was included in the email.

“I found the email amusing as I have never watched porn on the laptop,” said Vishal, who put up a Facebook post warning his friends and family about the existence of such blackmail scams. He also tagged the Bengaluru City Police in an attempt to alert the authorities concerned.

But what bothered him the most was how the scammer was able to gain access to his old password.

The data breaches

In 2012, a hacker stole 167 million emails and passwords of Linkedin users. The online travel booking platform yatra.com had a data breach that exposed the data of over five million of its users in 2013. In 2017, Zomato suffered a security breach with 17 million user records stolen from the food tech firm’s database. Various reports indicate that these customers’ data ended up in various dark web marketplaces.

“The password mentioned by the scammer on the subject of the scam email was an old one that was linked to my Linkedin, Zomato and Yatra accounts,” said Vishal.

On July 23, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), America’s equivalent to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), released a statement warning the public about the emerging blackmail scam.

“It's interesting to note that the scammer is asking for payments in Bitcoins, it shows that this a relatively new form of scam. A lot of people watch porn, the scammer has targeted a particular demographic of individuals who are tech-savvy. There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the abilities of a black hat hacker often perpetuated through movies. It's quite possible that they can fall for the scam, people will not speak out about the blackmail thinking their private lives have actually been compromised,” said the techie.

To report Cyber Crimes in Bengaluru, the public can reach out to the Bengaluru Cyber Crime division through their phone number:+91- 080- 22094498 or e-mail them at cybercrimepscomplaint[at]gmail[dot]com. Another option is to reach out to the Digital Police  portal of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

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