Cyber Blackmail Scheme Uses Child Porn as Bait

Gretchen Gallen
CYBERSPACE – A new cyber blackmail trend that security experts believe is generating from hackers in Russian and Eastern Europe is using child porn as a weapon to bilk users out of money.

Following in the footsteps of similar cyber extortionists who have used bribes of so-called distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) and virus downloads, these yet-unidentified hackers are threatening to expose users by downloading child porn onto their hard drives.

Unless a small fee is paid, extortionist threaten to turn the user into the police to face prosecution as a pedophile.

Until the scam was discovered, many users opted to pay the bribe rather than face any potential embarrassment. Authorities are suggesting that anyone who receives a similar threat should report it immediately.

"The people who are sending these emails are the worst of the worst as they are preying on people’s concern for children and also their own safety," Joan Irvine, executive director for Adult Sites Against Child Pornography, told XBiz.

"Everyone is horrified about the existence of child pornography which is why they don’t know how to react when they receive such emails," Irvine said. "As suggested, contact your Internet service provider, your police department, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Take action, but don’t pay."

According to experts, the emails are originating from Russia, one of the most active hacker regions in the world, and carry all the recognizable markings of organized gangs.

The success of the scam is also being attributed to targeting a specific demographic of a less tech savvy computer users who might be less apt to report the incident.

"Organized crime is a business – they've had an idea of how to change their market," said a representative for Britain's National High Tech Crime Unit.

This week's cyber porn scam follows the arrest of three hackers earlier this week who were allegedly involved in blackmailing Internet betting sites with threats of disabling their networks if financial demands weren't met. The hackers threatened to bombard the sites with a DDoS attack that would disable their web servers and cost millions in lost business.

The men were arrested in raids carried out in St Petersburg, Saratov and Stavropol in southwest Russia on Tuesday.

The gang is thought to have extorted hundreds of thousands of dollars from gaming sites, although authorities believe there are many more sites that have not yet reported the blackmail because of the low profile many gaming webmasters take in order to avoid attention from the law.

"It's blackmail, at the end of the day," stated the NHTCU. "If people don't report it and it continues, that doesn't help to resolve the problem."