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24/01/2019: sextortion scam emails - disgusting and distressing

Recently, scam emails purporting to be from someone who has hacked the recipient's computer, gaining evidence of criminal behaviour have been increasing exponentially. The messages crudely attempt to blackmail recipients, implying that their contact list will receive this fictitious material. They even have their own name now, 'sextortion'. There are two kinds; one includes a password that may well have been used by the recipient at some point, the other merely implies that this information is held.

The teeny bit of good news if there is a password, is that it gives the possibility of identifying the source of the data that the scammer stole to get email addresses in the first place.

The advice that I have been offering to recipients of this disgusting torrent of abuse is as follows:

I would advise closing any online accounts that you no longer use. Yes, this may seem like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, but these people are stealing information from somewhere, so at least you may stop it falling into any new sets of wrong hands. For online accounts that you need to keep, change the passwords. These should be different for each account and should consist of at least 8 characters, mixed upper case, lower case, number and punctuation. Why different for each one? Then, if another mail gets through with a password in it, the source of the leak can be identified. I know it is hard work, but using a different password for every online account is the only way that we can pinpoint those who are not taking adequate care of your personal data.

Next, get the contact details for your local police cyber crime unit, they should have one. Forward the email to them.

After that, go to bitcoinwhoswho.com and copy/paste the bitcoin account number into the search field. You will then get the opportunity to use the 'report scam' link. Choose 'sextortion' from the drop-down list and submit the form.

Finally, go to The Information Commissisoner's Office and use the online form to report this email.

With the volume of spam daily approaching 100 billion items, it is a huge task to cut down, but every little helps as they say.

If you don't have the time or inclination to make the reports, we can set up filters on an individual basis, targeting this kind of abusive email. Give me a call or send an email if you have concerns and would like to increase selective spam filtration.

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