Sextortion, a pernicious form of online blackmail, has been around almost as long as the technology that made it possible, and cybercriminals have used different methods through the years to gain a quick buck. While the specifics may vary, the general concept of how the scheme is pulled off remains the same: the cybercrime victim is tricked into performing sexual favors online and then the attacker blackmails the victim by threatening to expose the explicit recorded videos, pictures, and chat conversations. Because this triggers instant shock and shame, the victim is often left with no choice but to pay the hefty sum.
The previous reported sextortion cases from 2008-2012 were said to have been centered on the exposure of the victim’s sexual photos in exchange for giving sexual favors to the perpetrator. In 2014, 58 sextortion crime ring operators were arrested in the Philippines, under the investigation of International Criminal Police Organization and Philippine National Police in cooperation with various law enforcement agencies worldwide.
Recently, gangs that operate in East Asia have been employing an improved sextortion modus operandi with the potential to do more damage as the cybercriminals can directly contact the victim’s family and friends. This modus operandi makes use of mobile devices, and has been prominent in South Korea, though a case was also seen in Japan.
This particular sextortion scheme plays not only on the susceptible nature of the male gender or its culture, but revolves around a very complex operation that requires stealthy mobile data stealers, sophisticated drop zone infrastructure, and better evasion techniques. It involves a Chinese male posing as an attractive woman while chatting with a chosen victim. While the two parties engage in cybersex, the cybercriminal records the explicit act on video. The victim is also asked to download and install an Android app that is actually a data stealer that collects and sends the entire victim’s saved contact information to the cybercriminal. Finally, the cybercriminal blackmails the victim to pay an amount or the former will reveal the recorded video to everyone on his contact list. The victim then is forced to pay out of fear of being exposed.
Altogether, it becomes difficult to investigate especially in nations where the weight of humiliation is dictated by its culture and social values.
Learn more about this particular cybercriminal operation, its perpetrators, along with their tools and methods, in the research paper Sextortion in the Far East.
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