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Sextortion Scams Are On The Rise: Don’t Become A Victim

Beware! Sextortion is rising again and it's time to keep yourself safe

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Sextortion
Sextortion is a common practice among cybercriminals. You get an email, threatening to release photos or videos of your sexual activities unless you pay the hacker in cryptocurrency. Pixabay

After years of steady decline, email extortion is on the rise once again. In the first half of 2019 alone, the security company Symantec recorded almost 300 million scam emails. Most of these emails fall under the category of “sextortion.” 

What is Sextortion? 

Sextortion is a common practice among cybercriminals. You get an email, threatening to release photos or videos of your sexual activities unless you pay the hacker in cryptocurrency. Hackers can claim they infected your computer with malware and took control of your webcam to record you without you even knowing. They can use terms like “keylogger” and create a pretty convincing email praying on your fears. And of course, they can claim to have contact information of your friends, family, and coworkers — people they will share all that recorded material with unless you pay them off. 

For many, it will sound plausible already. But some hackers can add a few more tweaks to make sure you believe them. Usually, it’s your password in the subject line of the email to get your attention. And to make the hack or malware story seem that much more real.

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Hackers can claim they infected your computer with malware and took control of your webcam to record you without you even knowing, leading to sextortion. Pixabay

Here’s an interesting twist — most of the time, those photos or videos don’t even exist. No one hacked you, and there is no malware on your computer. These are mass emails that somehow bypass your spam filter. And your password suffered in a major data breach rather than from the hands of that particular ‘hacker’.

So why did people report almost $85 million in losses in 2018? Because hackers know how to convince you that they aren’t lying. Thus, it’s crucial to understand sextortion and what you can do not to become a victim. 

So I Have Nothing to Worry About? 

You shouldn’t go that far. Sextortion emails are scary. Although the people behind them may not have personal photos and videos of you, that doesn’t mean you can ignore them. 

Especially if the hackers somehow have the password for your account. You face a threat if you still use the exposed password. And even more so, if it protects more than one of your accounts. As a quick fix, be sure to change your password immediately. And if you use that password anywhere else, change the passwords of all your accounts. 

The easiest way to take your password security to the next level is by using a password manager. It encrypts and stores the details of your online accounts. Plus, you can use Firefox password managers (https://nordpass.com/download/firefox/) to generate long, secure, and unique passwords that are pretty much unbreakable. Not to mention the convenience. All you have to do is remember one password, and the password manager will take it from there. 

What Else Can I Do To Stay Safe? 

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Hackers know how to convince you that they aren’t lying. Thus, it’s crucial to understand sextortion and what you can do not to become a victim. Pixabay

Using a password manager is not the only way to ensure the security of your online accounts. Follow these essential email safety tips: 

  • Use strong security technology on your email account. It prevents these types of messages from ever reaching your inbox. 
  • Never open attachments, links, or emails from unknown email addresses. 
  • Learn to recognize phishing attempts or suspicious activity from known associates. It can be a sign that their accounts may have been compromised.
  • Scan all files before downloading, even if they came from trusted senders.
  • Use multi-factor authentication as well as biometric security features. 
  • Check sites like haveibeenpwned. com to see if your email address suffered in any data breaches. 
  • Once in a while, review the activity of your social media accounts. 
  • If you discover a breach or see some unusual activity in your accounts, change your passwords right away. 
  • Change all passwords every 30-60 days. 
  • Report all suspicious emails to your local authorities.

Sextortion is one of many potential threats online. For better security, be sure to learn about digital hygiene. It’s a set of best practices you can follow to secure your data and privacy online. 

Sextortion: How to Avoid the Latest Email Scams

Sextortion plays on our deepest fears of shame and embarrassment. By targeting these emotions, cybercriminals can convince people to send them hundreds or even thousands of dollars. But in reality, sextortion emails are quite low-tech. Like the “Nigerian Prince” scam. But instead of our need for money, sextortion scams prey on our fears.

Also Read- A Rendezvous with the Internet of Things

Protect yourself from sextortion and other email scams by using security strategies and tools. Secure all your accounts with unique passwords, learn to recognize suspicious emails, and make sure to use extra tools like multi-factor authentication and biometric security. Not only it will save you from falling for sextortion emails, but also a vast list of cyberattacks that threaten your privacy and safety online. 

 

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Many Security Flaws in Apple Safari Browser: Google

Google discovers security flaws in Apple Safari browser

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Google security researchers discovered several security flaws in a privacy software in Apple web browser Safari. Pixabay

Google security researchers discovered several security flaws in a privacy software in Apple web browser Safari that could have helped third-party vendors track users’ browsing habits.

According to a report in the Financial Times which cited a soon-to-be published paper from Google’s ‘Project Zero’ team, the vulnerabilities were found in an anti-tracking feature known as ‘Intelligent Tracking Prevention’.

Once disclosed by Google researchers to Apple in August last year, the Cupertino-based iPhone maker immediately patched the flaws.

Apple launched the ‘Intelligent Tracking Prevention’ tool in 2017 to, in fact, protect Safari users from being tracked around the web by advertisers and other third-party cookies.

According to Google researchers, the vulnerabilities left personal data of Safari users exposed. They also found a flaw that allowed hackers to “create a persistent fingerprint that will follow the user around the web”.

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This is the third time Google researchers have found flaws in the Apple ecosystem. Pixabay

Apple confirmed it patched the issues.

This is the third time Google researchers have found flaws in the Apple ecosystem.

In September, Apple slammed Google for creating a false impression about its iPhones being at hacking risk owing to security flaws that allegedly let several malicious websites break into its iOS operating system.

Researchers at ‘Project Zero’ team had discovered several hacked websites that allegedly used security flaws in iPhones to attack users who visited these websites — compromising their personal files, messages, and real-time location data.

In a statement, Apple said the so-called sophisticated attack was narrowly focused, not a broad-based exploit of iPhones “en masse” as described.

According to Google, the websites delivered their malware indiscriminately and were operational for years.

Apple said that it fixed the vulnerabilities in question — working extremely quickly to resolve the issue just 10 days after it learnt about it.

In July last year, the ‘Project Zero’ team found six critical flaws in Apple iMessage that can compromise the user’s phone without even interacting with them. These security vulnerabilities fell into the ‘interactionless’ category.

Also Read- Snake is the Most Probable Wildlife Animal Reservoir of Novel Coronavirus: Study

Two members of ‘Project Zero’, Google’s elite bug-hunting team, published details and demo proof-of-concept code for five of six ‘interactionless’ security bugs that impact the iOS operating system and can be exploited via the iMessage client. All the six security bugs were patched with the iPhone maker’s iOS 12.4 release. (IANS)