Criminal groups are offering $360,000 salaries to accomplices who can help them scam CEOs about their porn-watching habits

Getty ImagesThe cybersecurity firm Digital Shadows found 92 Bitcoin addresses had received payments through extortion.
  • Scammers are claiming to hack people’s webcams and access footage of them watching porn as part of a terrifying new scam.
  • These ‘sextortion’ email scams have raked in more than $US330,000 from scared victims since July 2018, a new report from cybersecurity firm Digital Shadows claims.
  • The company analysed criminal forums and bitcoin wallets linked to groups known to be practising extortion scams to get its data.
  • The report also found that some criminals are offering generous salaries to people who can help them target high-earning individuals.

The internet’s guilty secret is that pretty much everyone watches porn – and scammers know it.

Now internet con-artists are paying hefty salaries to accomplices willing to find rich people and claim they have webcam footage of them watching and masturbating to porn. They’re offering annual pay packets of as much as $US350,000.

These scammers, of course, don’t have any such webcam footage. But a new report from cybersecurity firm Digital Shadows suggests the scam works. Panicked internet users have paid more than hundreds of thousands of dollars in just the last seven months, after receiving threats that scammers would reveal their porn-watching or other internet habits.

What makes the ploy convincing is that scammers buy their victims emails and passwords from unrelated security breaches. They then use that data to make their threats more convincing. We have your login details, the scammers are effectively saying, so you can believe we have a bunch of other stuff too.

The scammer presents the victim’s password as proof, and asks for cash (often in the form of bitcoin) in exchange for not releasing the information.


Read more:
People are being victimized by a terrifying new email scam where attackers claim they stole your password and hacked your webcam while you were watching porn – here’s how to protect yourself

The tactic is disquieting enough to convince some people into forking out. According to the report, victims have lost $US332,000 to these scams in the seven months from July 2018. That comes to roughly $US47,000 per month.

Digital shadows gleaned its data through analysing criminal forums and bitcoin wallets associated with criminal groups known to be practising extortion scams.

The company also claims that 89,000 unique recipients were targeted with 792,000 individual scams over this period, and that on average a scammer could expect to squeeze as much as $US540 out of a victim. But while sending tens of thousands of emails in the hopes that enough victims will hand over $US500 might is a typical scattergun approach, these scammers are starting to hone in on more high-reward individuals.

Digital Shadows said that scammers are offering yearly salaries of $US360,000 on average to people who can help them target high-earning victims such as company executives, lawyers and doctors.

Digital Shadows advises people not to respond to these emails, and to check whether their password may have been compromised on HaveIBeenPwned.

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