Interpol announced the arrest of 12 individuals suspected to be core members of a transnational sextortion ring. The arrests took place in July and August as a result of a joint investigation conducted by Interpol’s cybercrime division and police in Singapore and Hong Kong.
“Under the banner #YouMayBeNext and supported by 75 INTERPOL member countries and 21 public or private entities, the campaign focused particularly on sextortion, ransomware and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.” reads the statement released by Interpol. “In a vivid example of the threat these attacks represent, international police action supported by INTERPOL has uncovered and dismantled a transnational sextortion ring that managed to extract at least USD 47,000 from victims. So far, the investigation has traced 34 cases back to the syndicate.”
Sextortion is a criminal act and a form of sexual exploitation that involves coercing an individual, through threat or manipulation, into producing sexually explicit material and sending it over the Internet.
The suspects contacted potential victims via online sex and dating platforms, then trick them into downloading a malicious mobile app to engage in “naked chats.”
The crooks used the app to steal victims’ phone contact lists, then blackmail victims by threatening to share their nude videos with their relatives and friends.
Most of the victims of this sextortion ring are based in Hong Kong and Singapore.
”We conducted a proactive investigation and in-depth analysis of a zombie command and control server hosting the malicious application, which – along with the joint efforts by our counterparts – allowed us to identify and locate individuals linked to the criminal syndicate,” said Raymond Lam Cheuk Ho, Acting Head of the Hong Kong Police’s Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau.
Interpol also warns of a sharp rise in sextortion reports in recent years, the increase has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The agency highlights the risks of this crime, just one click on an unverified link or sending an intimate photo or video to someone can expose individuals to sextortion threat.
According to the authorities, the attacks resulted in financial losses of more than $8 million until the end of July 2021.
The FBI received over 16,000 sextortion complaints until July 31, 2021, the age of most of the victims is between 20 and 39.
Below is the list of tips published by FBI to avoid extortion attempts:
(SecurityAffairs – hacking, sextortion)