Cambridge businesswoman Deborah Bunyard got a shock when she opened her emails recently, confronted with a demand for $7000US from a hacker. Deb was on the receiving end of a new scam doing the rounds, where blackmailers email a target threatening to send videos of them watching pornography out to all of their contacts.
To make it even more disturbing, the hackers had knowledge of one of Deb’s old passwords and claimed to have used this to gain remote access to her computer as well her contacts.
Even though Deb does not watch pornography, she said the email still shook her because she was frightened the hackers would make something up and follow through on their threat.
“The scary thing is that you can be sitting at home, minding your own business, and a total stranger can come in and threaten you (by email).
“This was an awful experience for me, and I consider myself a strong person, so I can’t imagine what this experience would be like for those more vulnerable,” she added.
With her own computer’s security up to scratch, Deb thinks the hackers got her password and email through Yahoo, which had all of its 3 billion accounts hacked back in a 2013 breach that is regarded as the largest hack in history.
From there, they sent her an email in poorly-written English, telling her they had video footage of her watching pornography and that she had two options. The first, ignore the demand for $7,000US and the hacker would send the purported video to all of Deb’s contacts.
“When you were watching video clips (she wasn’t), your Internet browser initiated working as a remote control desktop that has a keylogger which provided me with access to your screen and also web camera. after that, my software collected your entire contacts from your Messenger, FB, and email. and then i created a video?” the email advised. Her second option would be to make a “donation” to the hacker for $7,000 in Bitcoin. “Consequently, i will quickly delete your video recording. You could continue on with everyday life like this never took place and you would never hear back again from me,” the blackmailer wrote. The email also said there was a pixel in the email that told the hacker when the message had been read, giving Deb one day to pay from then.
Deb contacted police immediately, and said they took it very seriously. “They treated it as a blackmail attempt,” she said, and they are following it up.
Then it was then a waiting game to see if this supposed video materialised, which of course it didn’t.
“The scary thing about this is there is nothing you can do to avoid getting these types of emails,” Deb said, obviously relieved the hackers didn’t follow through. “Everyone would know it was fake, but it would be just another thing to deal with,” she said. “I just feel afraid for those people who just believe everything, I’m sure some people would have wanted to make the payment.”