With a joint investigation between Interpol’s Cybercrime division and the Hong Kong and Singapore police, a transnational sextortion ring has been discovered and taken apart. Interpol arrested 12 suspects it believes are the core members of the ring in July and August.
The attackers would reach out to their victims using online dating apps and would trick them into downloading an app for “naked chats” using a special hyperlink. This app in turn would take over the victim’s contact list giving the attackers everything they need to blackmail the victim by threatening to leak their compromising images to friends and family.
According to Interpol’s report, the operation was able to extort around $47,000 from the 34 cases the agency has traced back to the syndicate so far. Thanks to reports from victims, law enforcement agencies began zeroing in on the syndicate. Investigation and analysis of a zombie command and control centre hosting the malicious application allowed law enforcement to identify and locate the suspects.
This is one of the first arrest announcements following Interpol’s public awareness campaign that launched back in June to warn internet users of the sharp rise in digital extortion (particularly sextortion), ransomware and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. The campaign is supported by 75 Interpol member countries and 21 public or private organisations.
There has been a dramatic rise in sextortion cases over the past few years, the situation has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused several other types of cybercrime to rise sharply as well. Interpol recommends taking the following steps should you fall victim to such schemes:
- Cease all contact with the suspected cyber criminals.
- Do not pay anything or send any additional information.
- Make sure to document everything and keep or assemble any evidence.
- Report the crime to the Police.
In the News: Google patches zero-day flaw in Chrome; update immediately