The Newest Email Scam

Gotten an email with the subject containing a password you’ve used in the past, asking for thousands of dollars in Bitcoin? Stop right there! We’ve been getting lots of questions about this kind of email this past month and wanted to address it head-on.

There’s a new ransomware scam running rampant in the tech world; an email with one of your passwords in the subject line, saying that the recipient of the email has been recorded while they were on an adult site. The email goes on to claim that it obtained this video footage of you by installing malware onto the video clips, which allowed the hacker to get control of your forward-facing camera on your laptop as well as a recording of the screen. It also tells the recipient that it has gotten access to their computer’s messenger app, gathering all the contacts stored there as well as on social media sites and email.

What do these “sextortion” hackers want, you ask? To force you to send a large sum of money (between $1200 to $1600 dollars, depending on the scam email) to a Bitcoin address within the next 24 hours. If you don’t, it threatens to release the alleged video footage to all of your contacts in your messenger, social media, and email accounts.

Thankfully, these emails are a scam. Thus far, the passwords they attach in the subject lines of the emails have been ones that were released online from stolen databases years ago. Your account might have been breached 10 years ago, and because this breach information is available on the Internet, it is believed that these scammers have found a way to automate an email after pulling key elements, like your email account and old password, from the databases. The idea is to get you scared enough that you’ll pay the “ransom” – but there haven’t been any cases of the email being legitimate.

The best ways to avoid this are to make sure you aren’t recycling old passwords, keep changing your passwords regularly (read “4 Ways to Keep Your Email Secure” for more information), and use a password manager to increase the security of your accounts. The FBI is also recommending that you cover your laptop and/or desktop front-facing cameras as a precaution; although these emails have been empty threats so far, and the passwords they’ve used have been old, it’s much safer to prepare accordingly.

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