Your computer may be a source of 27 million troubling emails threatening to expose people’s porn-viewing habits and sensitive photos unless a ransom is paid, according to a new report.
Researchers at the cyber security firm Check Point said they have pinpointed an infectious computer malware called Phorpiex, in which people unknowingly sent “sextortion” emails at a rate of 30,000 per hour.
“While you were sleeping, you’ve just sent almost million spam emails without knowing anything about it,” said Check Point’s head of cyber research, Yaniv Balmas.
According to Check Point, cyber criminals are using leaked passwords in conjunction with email addresses to infect computers to carry out the sextortion scam. Researchers said Phorpiex circumvents popular email servers or anything that leaves traces.
Balmas said computer users should make sure their anti-malware programs are up-to-date or have a trusted security vendor inspect your computer to make sure it is not infected. He also said anyone who receives a sextortion email should delete it.
“It’s not really a thing, don’t pay the money,” Balmas said.
The FBI said it saw a 242% increase in extortion scams in 2018 costing victims over $83 million in losses. The majority of the extortion complaints received were sextortion, in which victims received an email threatening to send a pornographic video of them or other compromising information to families, friends, co-workers or social network contacts if a ransom was not paid.