Indian Cyber security agency warns of email extortion fraud

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India's cyber security agency has issued a detailed advisory warning users about a new email extortion fraud where scammers send mails to unsuspecting people claiming that their computers have been hacked and demand money for letting go of it. 

The Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) advisory says these cyber criminals claim they have a video taken from the victim's webcam that gives away their passwords and go on to provide details of their mail accounts showing possibly old passwords as evidence. 

At this juncture, they usually ask for money in the form of some untraceable mode of payment including Bitcoins and threaten the users that refusal to pay up could result in them leaking more of their personal data including photographs in the public domain. 

"Although the listed passwords are in many cases actual passwords that the user has used in the past, but the attacker does not know them by hacking into your account, but rather through leaked data breaches shared online," the CERT-In says while underscoring that these emails are fake scams and users have nothing to worry about. 

It goes on to advise recipients of such emails that they should refrain from paying payments and in case passwords listed by them appear familiar, they just need to change those on any website that they are being used. 

This is how the email appears

"I know, xxx, is your password. You don't know me and you're thinking why you received this email, right?" 

"Well, I actually placed a malware on the porn website and guess what, you visited this website to have fun (you know what I mean). While you were watching the video, your web browser acted as a RDP (remote desktop) and a keylogger which provided me access to your display screen and webcam. Right after that, my software gathered all your contacts from your Messenger, Facebook account, and email account." 

"What exactly did I do? I made a split-screen video. First part recorded the video you were viewing and the next part recorded your webcam. 

What should you do? Well, I believe $1900 is a fair price for our little secret. You will make the payment via Bitcoin to the below address (if you don't know this, search "how to buy bitcoin in Google). 

"Important: You have 24 hours in order to make the payment (I have a unique pixel within this email message, and right now I know you have read this email). If I don't get the payment, I will send your video to all your contacts including relatives, coworkers and so forth. Nonetheless, if I do get paid, I will erase the video immediately. If you want evidence, reply with "Yes!" and I will send proof to five of your friends. This is a non-negotiable offer, so don't waste my time and yours by replying to this email." 

CERT-In advise 

CERT-In adds in the advisory that in case users receive any emails of this type, they should merely delete it and need not get intimidated. And in case any of the passwords shared in the email look familiar, users should immediately go and change them. 

Earlier in April, CERT-In had warned about the vulnerabilities of video conferencing app Zoom and issued an advisory outlining safety measures for both the operator as well as the users. 

Raj Narayan

A media veteran who turned a gadget lover fairly recently. An early adopter of Apple products, Raj has an insatiable curiosity for facts and figures which he puts to use in research. He engages in active sport and retreats to his farm during his spare time.