Cyber blackmail cases on the rise

Cyber blackmail cases on the rise
PHOTO: NP

KUALA LUMPUR - Unsuspecting Malaysians continue to be victims of cyber blackmail, with some being threatened to have their nude photos or compromising videos released online if they do not pay up, sometimes by as high as US$5,000 (S$6500).

Besides the usual scams over Skype, Trojan horse viruses are now used to gain remote control of computers or webcams, hoping to catch victims naked.

According to the police's cyber and multimedia investigation division, cases now number in the hundreds.

"There is definitely an increase in such cases," said Insp Mohd Riduan bin Abd Majid (pic).

He said while police had no statistics due to many victims not coming forward due to shame, the increase was because syndicates behind such crimes were getting savvier.

"Now, they check out your profile before targeting you.

"If you have a lot of information on your social media page, such as where you work, your list of friends or real name, it becomes easier to intimidate you.

"We believe that these syndicates are from outside Malaysia, particularly the Philippines."

His advice to victims is to never give in to demands for money.

"If you do, they'll continue asking you for money."

MCA Public Complaints Bureau chief Datuk Seri Michael Chong, who had already dealt with 10 such cases this year, also urged victims not to pay up.

"In one case last year, a woman paid over RM100,000 (S$39,000) in blackmail money and they still kept hassling her," he said, adding that while most complainants were men, women had a "harder time recovering".

A hacker, who had to deal with seven cases in the past three weeks, said the two most common scams were the Skype method and the Trojan horse.

In the Skype method, a pretty girl would seduce a man during a video chat before convincing him to chat naked with her.

"What the man doesn't realise is that the girl is just a video recording and that he is being filmed himself.

"Once he finishes the act, he receives the blackmail message," said the hacker, who declined to be named.

The other method is more insidious, by which a Trojan Horse is used to infect a computer with a remote administration tool (RAT) allowing them control of the computer from anywhere in the world.

"A Trojan Horse gives full access to everything, including passwords, the webcam and basically, the administrator status.

"The culprit then monitors the webcam until you're caught naked, collecting as many images as he can before blackmailing you," he said.

The criminals could also go through personal files looking for incriminating photographs, said the hacker, citing a case in which a girl's webcam was so corrupted that it could not be used anymore.

"What the criminals did was to go through her files where they found a video of her stripping naked for her boyfriend and used that to threaten her."

The hacker said while men tended to "easily trust" women who claimed to want to Skype naked with them, female victims were likely to click and browse through suspicious websites.

MCMC chairman Datuk Mohamed Shahril Mohamed Tarmizi urged people to be careful, asking them to "use the webcam only when they wanted to".

"Unplug it if you are not using it or stick a post-it note over the camera," he said.

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