New E-Mail Security Threat: Cyber Blackmail

Corporate and home PC users are receiving blackmail threats from Internet con artists who claim to have access to their PCs, security experts say. The blackmailers threaten to delete information or plant pornographic files on their hard drives if not paid. "It used to be that a hacker would hack into a company, steal data and ask for money -- or otherwise they would sell the customer database to someone else. That's the old style," F-Secure research manager Mikko Hypponen told NewsFactor. "The new style is, you don't do any hacking at all. You simply claim that you can hack people's systems, and if they don't pay, they get hacked." This type of extortion demand is an example of hackers shifting their target from big companies to individual users -- in many cases, office workers. "It's much easier to con a home user or an office worker than an I.T. security admin or the top management of a company," Hypponen said.

Small Payments

A blackmail threat could target any user connected to the Internet. The cyber blackmailer sends an initial e-mail claiming to have hacked a corporate network or to have broken into a home user's system. The amount of money the hacker demands usually is modest in comparison to previous computer blackmail schemes. "We used to see ransoms like (US)$30,000 to $50,000 for customer database thefts," Hypponen said. In contrast, "the ransom [demands] that we've seen in these new cases are around $25 dollars -- something that anyone could easily pay."

News source: NewsFactor

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