Sextortion

Less than a month ago, security researcher Brian Krebs published an article called, Sextortion Scam Uses Recipient’s Hacked Passwords, and now, it appears that extortion has spread to the Apple platform.

Sextortion, by definition, is a form of blackmail in which sexual information or images are used to extort sexual favors from the victim. 

As noted by Krebs, the perpetrators would first hack the computers password. After receiving the computer's password, the hackers would email the victim and inform them that their password was hacked. What they would do next is tell the victim that they recorded them doing nefarious things. You can read an entire email below.

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This type of email would be very convincing, as the hackers literally know your password, which would make the average user and even more advanced users assume that recording through the webcam is possible. This is one of the more intimidating and personal scams I've ever seen. This isn't simply an attempt at extortion, it's uncomfortably personal.

Quite some time ago, I wrote a blog entitled simply Should You Cover Your Computer Camera. Now, when I wrote this, I hadn't really considered something like sextortion. That being said, if you are going to be doing..."personal" things on your computer, you may be better off using a camera cover. In addition to covering your camera, it may be worth it to get a piece of camera-monitoring software that can help monitor your webcam activity and alert you to its use.

When it comes to webcam monitoring, there is nothing better than Oversight by Objective-See. This software, as I mentioned, alerts you to both your camera and your microphone becoming active. It will throw you a notification in the top-right corner of your screen, alerting you to its activation. It also allows to whitelist certain apps, meaning that when you get the alert whether to allow or block the enabling of your camera, you can choose "Yes, Always" or "Just Once." This way, you can make sure Facetime always comes through, but other applications do not. Now you may be thinking, "Isn't that what the small, green light next to the camera is for?" The short answer is: yes. The slightly longer answer is that the green light can be bypassed to remain off even while the camera is active.

 © Objective-See —— example of whitelisting an application with Oversight

© Objective-See —— example of whitelisting an application with Oversight

 © Objective-See —— Oversight Application for macOS

© Objective-See —— Oversight Application for macOS

There are other ways you can protect yourself, such as using a program such as Micro Snitch, which is a program by the creators of Little Snitch, or you could even use an actual camera cover. If you so desire, you even get a pair the two. I don't physically cover my camera, as I am not overly concerned of being spied on, but a large part of this is due to the fact that I purchased Micro Snitch years ago, and since then, Objective-See released Oversight, which I also have installed. I figure that between the two programs, I should be safe, although I've found myself definitely drifting towards Objective-See's tools as opposed to the creators of Little/Micro Snitch, Objective Development. TL;DR: Install Oversight.

I do understand why others may want it covered. We all remember that picture of Mark Zuckerberg holding up a sign in his office, and in the background you see a MacBook Pro with the microphone and camera covered. Many people were shocked by this, but I was not one of them. Zuckerberg has many whom I'm sure would like to access his webcam, whereas someone like myself doesn't really have to deal with creepy people like that in my reality. It's our differences in fame and fortune. Fortune will quickly make you a larger target for any type of cyber attack.

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The FBI has listed a few ways to avoid sextortion scams. They are as follows:

1. Never send compromising images of yourself to anyone, no matter who they are — or who they say they are.

2. Don’t open attachments from people you don’t know, and in general be wary of opening attachments even from those you do know.

3. Turn off [and/or cover] any web cameras when you are not using them.

If you or someone you know have been victims of a sextortion scam, contact the FBI toll-free at 1-800-CALL-FBI.