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Crypto sextortionists are renting out bots to scare, scam people out of their Bitcoins, study finds

A paper looking into the growing influence of crypto sextortionists found that botnets are being rented by criminals to scare people to give up their Bitcoins.

Photo via Pixabay

Thu, 24 Oct 2019, 04:15 am UTC

As cryptocurrency evolves and improves over time, crimes related to this technology has also transformed with it. Crypto sextortion – sexual extortion messages requiring payments in cryptocurrency – is now easier than ever as revealed by a team of security researchers who have been looking into the problem.

In the paper titled “Spams meet Cryptocurrencies: Sextortion in the Bitcoin Ecosystem,” the researchers detailed how sophisticated botnets are being rented and used by criminals to target unsuspecting victims. The botnet can be rented for $10,000 that would then send out 100 million email spams, resulting in $130,000 in profit.

These spams would try to scare recipients to cough up Bitcoin, claiming that they’ve been monitored for months through malware infection. The amount that these criminals would then charge its victims vary from territory to territory, CoinDesk reported.

Crypto sextortionists charges based on spam’s language

Spams that have been created through the English language would ask for $745. Slovenian and Korean nationals come in second and third place, with the sextortionists asking for $698 and $500 respectively from both email recipients.

On the lower end of the spectrums are Polish ($288), Italians ($284), and Spaniards ($249). By adjusting their charging rates based on nationalities, these criminals are increasing the turnouts of these spams, tailoring their attack based on the projected financial value for each target. But this isn’t supported by the study.

Indeed, the researchers are still at a loss as to why these criminals are discriminating based on language and didn’t provide any explanation on the paper why this is. They’re also confused as to why the spammers aren’t charging higher prices for spams that include passwords and phone numbers given that this adds more weight to the threat.

Sextortion methods can still be improved

What’s more, the spammers also failed to track which population is consistently paying more and which strategy is more effective. Thus, although the mode in which these criminals operate is considered sophisticated, it appears that their approach is still limited. This is alarming since this is a sign that their methods can still be improved even though the profits they’re gaining is lucrative enough already.

The researchers conclude that given the amount of money that’s being produced by crypto sextortionist, this criminal activity will persist in the coming years. It’s also worth noting that the researchers said that the majority of these activities are likely governed by a single entity. The identity of this entity remains a mystery for now, unfortunately.

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