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Thousands of Aussies attacked by ‘unsettling’ scam

Lucy Dean
·2-min read
But there's good news. Image: Getty
But there's good news. Image: Getty

Australians have been warned to be on the alert against “dangerous” sextortion scams which have already made nearly 60,000 attacks in Australia. 

Digital security and privacy firm Avast has blocked more than 500,000 sextortion attacks by scammers, who have taken advantage of increased Zoom use during the pandemic.

The attacks send emails to victims claiming they’ve recorded them in intimate moments. Then, they threaten to share the footage unless the victim pays a ransom.

“Sextortion scams are dangerous and unsettling, and can even have tragic consequences resulting in the suicide of affected users. During the Covid-19 pandemic, cybercriminals likely see a strong opportunity for success as people spend more time on Zoom and in front of their computer overall,” said Marek Beno, malware analyst at Avast.

“As scary as such emails may sound, we urge people to stay calm if they receive such a message in their inbox and ignore it, as it is just a dirty trick that cybercriminals use to try to get your money.”

Avast saw a large increase in the number of these scams over December 2020, with scammers pretending they’ve exploited a weakness in Zooms security.

However, this vulnerability does not actually exist.

Under another threat, the scammers tell the victim they have sensitive information which can lead to “terrible reputational damage” unless the victim transfers some $2,000 in Bitcoin.

And in another threat, the scammers claim a Trojan virus was installed on the victim’s computer which has recorded all of their actions with a microphone and webcam, while also harvesting all of their social media conversations.

“As with the Zoom campaign, these threats are all fake. There are no undetectable Trojans, nothing is recorded, and attackers do not have your data. The timer included in the email is another social engineering technique used to manipulate victims into paying,” Beno said.

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