Security Market Segment LS
Friday, 24 April 2020 11:38

Sextortion spams generating funds for cyber criminals: Sophos Featured

Sextortion spams generating funds for cyber criminals: Sophos Pixabay

Security outfit Sophos claims that funds extracted from victims of sextortion schemes have been deposited by cyber criminals in bitcoin wallets.

The company said in a detailed post by its researchers Tamás Kocsír and Sean Gallagher that the spam messages had been sent between 1 September last year and 31 January this year.

Recipients were told their PCs had been hacked, that the sender was in possession of videos of them visiting porn sites, and threatened to share the videos with their friends if they did not pay up.

Sums of as much as US$800 in bitcoin were demanded, the Sophos researchers said.

"The flow of that digital currency reveals that many of the operators behind these sextortion scams are connected to a much larger criminal digital economy," Kocsír and Gallagher claimed.

sophos sex2

"Though there were some smaller players involved in these spam campaigns, the movement of the bitcoin deposited in many of those wallets shows the campaigns were linked to other criminal enterprises — either funding other illicit activity or providing a way to convert the bitcoin to hard cash."

The data which the Sophos duo collected was analysed by blockchain analytics and cryptocurrency firm CipherTrace which found that the wallet addresses used by the senders of the messages had made transactions with dark web marketplaces, stolen credit card sellers and others who are part of the cyber criminal economy.

Kocsír and Gallagher said there was nothing particularly unique about the messages themselves. Despite this, and the fact that the majority of recipients either did not see the messages or did not pay up, the wallets associated with the messages pulled in 50.98 bitcoin during the five months of the scam.

"That amounts to roughly US$473,000, based on the average daily price at the times the payments were made, and an average of US$3100 a day," the Sophos researchers noted.

They said there had been unusual spikes in the volume of such sextortion mnessages in the five-month period cited, with as much as a fifth of the spam monitored by the company falling into this category. " And the sextortion emails on just three days in October accounted for over 15 percent of all spam between September and January," they added.

A total of 328 wallets received payments during the period and 12 of these were connected to online cryptocurrency exchanges or other wallet services. A total of 476 output transactions from the remaining 316 were mostly sent to the following:

  • Binance, a global BTC exchange (70 transactions);
  • LocalBitcoins, another BTC exchange (48 transactions);
  • Coinpayments, a BTC payment gateway (30 transactions);
  • Other wallets within the sextortion scheme, consolidating funds (45 transactions); and
  • There were 54 transactions to addresses that could not be attributed – likely private non-hosted wallets.

Kocsír and Gallagher said it was difficult to trace the money that was generated by these scams in the real world.

"Tracking where physically in the world the money went from these sextortion scams is a difficult endeavour. Out of the 328 addresses provided, CipherTrace determined that 20 of the addresses had IP data associated with them, but those addresses were connected to VPNs or Tor exit nodes – so they were not useful in geo-locating their owners," they pointed out.

sophos graphic

Subscribe to ITWIRE UPDATE Newsletter here

Now’s the Time for 400G Migration

The optical fibre community is anxiously awaiting the benefits that 400G capacity per wavelength will bring to existing and future fibre optic networks.

Nearly every business wants to leverage the latest in digital offerings to remain competitive in their respective markets and to provide support for fast and ever-increasing demands for data capacity. 400G is the answer.

Initial challenges are associated with supporting such project and upgrades to fulfil the promise of higher-capacity transport.

The foundation of optical networking infrastructure includes coherent optical transceivers and digital signal processing (DSP), mux/demux, ROADM, and optical amplifiers, all of which must be able to support 400G capacity.

With today’s proprietary power-hungry and high cost transceivers and DSP, how is migration to 400G networks going to be a viable option?

PacketLight's next-generation standardised solutions may be the answer. Click below to read the full article.


WEBINAR PROMOTION ON ITWIRE: It's all about webinars

These days our customers Advertising & Marketing campaigns are mainly focussed on webinars.

If you wish to promote a Webinar we recommend at least a 2 week campaign prior to your event.

The iTWire campaign will include extensive adverts on our News Site and prominent Newsletter promotion and Promotional News & Editorial.

This coupled with the new capabilities 5G brings opens up huge opportunities for both network operators and enterprise organisations.

We have a Webinar Business Booster Pack and other supportive programs.

We look forward to discussing your campaign goals with you.


Sam Varghese

website statistics

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

Share News tips for the iTWire Journalists? Your tip will be anonymous




Guest Opinion

Guest Interviews

Guest Reviews

Guest Research

Guest Research & Case Studies

Channel News