Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

ABTV

8/5/2019
04:22 PM
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb
50%
50%

Has Your Employee Been Compromised by Sextortion?

Sextortion is one particular kind of extortion that is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as "The practice of forcing someone to do something by threatening to publish sexual information about them."

Sextortion is one particular kind of extortion that is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as "The practice of forcing someone to do something by threatening to publish sexual information about them."

So, it's a form of social engineering that uses different pressures than those usually seen in business email. Of course, that difference which makes it stand out may be the reason that it is being used as a technique in the first place.

A sextortionist is just a scammer who uses these not-so-veiled exposure threats to pressure victims into paying a ransom.

Typically, these scammers come out of the woodwork after a major site breach has occurred with account information exfiltrated. That's because these criminals are the ones that will purchase the account information that shows up on black hat websites after a breach has happened. They want the account information to try an unauthorized login to some other site than the one that has been breached.

One might think that the account information from one site is specific to that site. Well, it is theoretically; but people reuse passwords used on one site when logging into another. This reuse of passwords has been fairly well documented over the years, and Cofense recently issued a report that demonstrates how this insecure behavior is assumed and abused by sextortionists.

As they put it, "Why is the threat actor able to validate the account information? It's common for people to reuse the same password across multiple sites. It's just easier. Many organizations have defaulted to using your email address as your username -- again, it's simple to remember. But convenience comes at a price. Easy credentials make it too easy to compromise accounts."

They put some numbers to the scale of the problem when they also say that, "To date, we've identified over 200 million unique compromised accounts (a number that could rise significantly) and analyzed 7,854,099 sextortion emails."

They are maintaining a database at cofense[.]com/sextortion that they say can determine if an address or domain is on the target list that they have derived from all this analysis. No claims for accuracy or completeness are made about the database by them, but Cofense did find a "for rent" botnet in June 2019 that had been used primarily to send sextortion emails. They say they are monitoring this botnet and will update the target list when it becomes necessary to do so.

They also say that, "this botnet IS NOT currently infecting computers to acquire new data sets (à la Emotet). It's just recycling email addresses acquired through various means over time."

In the meantime, they advise that, "If a sextortion email is received, we recommend that you do not respond to the email or pay the ransom." Indeed, they counsel to just delete it but it's possible that it may be needed at a later time for forensic purposes.

— Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 9/17/2020
Cybersecurity Bounces Back, but Talent Still Absent
Simone Petrella, Chief Executive Officer, CyberVista,  9/16/2020
Meet the Computer Scientist Who Helped Push for Paper Ballots
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  9/16/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world -- and enterprise computing -- on end. Here's a look at how cybersecurity teams are retrenching their defense strategies, rebuilding their teams, and selecting new technologies to stop the oncoming rise of online attacks.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-25789
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-19
An issue was discovered in Tiny Tiny RSS (aka tt-rss) before 2020-09-16. The cached_url feature mishandles JavaScript inside an SVG document.
CVE-2020-25790
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-19
** DISPUTED ** Typesetter CMS 5.x through 5.1 allows admins to upload and execute arbitrary PHP code via a .php file inside a ZIP archive. NOTE: the vendor disputes the significance of this report because "admins are considered trustworthy"; however, the behavior "contradicts our secu...
CVE-2020-25791
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-19
An issue was discovered in the sized-chunks crate through 0.6.2 for Rust. In the Chunk implementation, the array size is not checked when constructed with unit().
CVE-2020-25792
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-19
An issue was discovered in the sized-chunks crate through 0.6.2 for Rust. In the Chunk implementation, the array size is not checked when constructed with pair().
CVE-2020-25793
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-19
An issue was discovered in the sized-chunks crate through 0.6.2 for Rust. In the Chunk implementation, the array size is not checked when constructed with From<InlineArray<A, T>>.