Extortion and blackmailing with stolen private information is not unusual. The types of data that hackers like to use to blackmail other people include photographs that show them in compromising or embarrassing situations. They also look for messages that may contain private information. They are even looking for health information that they believe you would not want to become public. As an example, hackers stole confidential therapy records from a psychotherapy center in Finland just this year.
What Do Hackers typically Ask for or Want?
Hackers usually want money. If they succeed in finding private information that people would do anything to keep private, they know that they found the right targets. They blackmail these victims and threaten to release the information on the internet unless they receive payment. In the example described above, victims were told to pay the hackers in bitcoin.
What Are Some Related Statistics?
Sextortion is when hackers blackmail victims with photographs or video that feature the victims in sexually explicit situations, and it is growing in Great Britain. According to the National Crime Center in the U.K., 1,484 people reported that they were the victims of sextortion in 2018. This year, the agency received 703 reports. In Australia, a study from RMIT University showed that one in 10 people were extorted with the threat of the release of compromising pictures this year.
The problem is only going to get worse. Experts are predicting that hackers are going to steal as many as 33 billion records in 2023 alone. This year, they found that 52% of 4,000 breaches were the result of hacking. They also learned that 70% of all of these breaches were done for financial gain. In most cases, hackers get into other people’s accounts by guessing the owners’ passwords.
Similar Cases that Occurred Over the Years
In 2015, TalkTalk Telecom Group was hacked, and the company’s senior executives were the targets. The six executives received orders to pay the hackers in bitcoin so that they wouldn’t sell the customers’ personal information on the internet. These executives know that their company’s reputation is on the line, so they do not want this information to be placed on the internet. The company would no longer be seen as a trustworthy brand if that were to happen.
What Can People Do When They Are Blackmailed with Stolen Information?
One thing that people are beginning to do in these situations is explore injunctive relief against these hackers. This is a good plan for several reasons, including the following:
- Taking the case to court demonstrates the fact that you did everything that you could to respond to this threat. This will be important if the data that was stolen belongs to your customers.
- If you have a court order, it will be easier for you to convince third-party companies to remove the information after it has been placed on their websites.
- Obtaining an injunction can be part of your plan to let your customers know that there has been a security breach on your website.
- The stolen information may end up in the hands of media personnel. Before these people will be able to publish the story, they will be required to show the court that there is public interest in it.
Where Should People Report Blackmail Cases?
In Finland, hackers are telling their victims to pay them with bitcoin, but the authorities are telling them not to do that. Instead, they suggest that you download the emails you receive and take them to the police station. Then, you can file a police report. You don’t want to pay these hackers because that doesn’t ensure that your information will not be released.
Police officials also advise people not to talk to a blackmailer after they have been contacted.
What Precautionary Steps Can You Take to Avoid Being Hacked?
In hacking cases, criminals illegally access your devices or your websites for the purpose of stealing your personal information. These people use the best technology, and they are hard to find because they are often located outside of the countries that they target. With all of their expertise and equipment, they can walk away with a lot of sensitive information.
Fortunately, there are just two main ways that hackers find your personal information, so we can easily find ways to protect ourselves from them. One way that hackers steal information is to install spyware on your device. They do this by sending it to you in an email, an attachment, an image, a link or a message. The spyware can then send your personal information to the hackers without your knowledge.
The spyware also allows hackers to figure out your passwords, account numbers and other sensitive information. The spyware makes it possible to hack websites where you have your financial information stored or social media accounts that have other personal information on file. It may seem like you couldn’t possibly protect everything from prying eyes, but it is possible to do. Below are some tips to avoid being the target of hackers and their extortion or blackmail demands:
Install Antimalware and Antivirus Software on Your Devices
Install a firewall along with your antivirus software, and make sure that these are always up to date. Paying for these programs is well worth the money because they will tell you when there is a new threat that could harm your devices. They also remove any malicious software that hackers place on your devices. These programs may contain malware, so you have to be very careful about the ones you choose to download on to your devices.
Install the Latest Versions of Security Software
Web browsers, music players and email programs need to be updated on a regular basis. When your system informs you that an update is available, make sure that you take advantage of it.
Make Sure that Your Connections Are Disabled when They Are not in Use
If you are connecting to the internet via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, make sure these connections are disabled when you aren’t using them. If you leave them on, people can access your network and your devices, and you would never know that it was happening.
How Can You Protect Your Online Accounts?
It’s also important to protect your online accounts. Some examples are your email accounts and your social media accounts. Keep your information safe by doing the following:
If an Email Seems Suspicious, Delete It
If an email appears to be spam or just suspicious, don’t open it. Delete it immediately. If the email came from a trusted friend or family member, contact that person just to make sure that he or she sent it.
Only Use a Device if it Is Secure
Make sure that you only visit your online accounts from your personal computer, smartphone or tablet. The internet connection you use to access the internet should also be secure. Public internet connections could be infected with malware or spyware, and the internet connection may also be insecure. If it is necessary to use a public connection, make sure that you log out right after you are finished.
Do Your Best to Create Strong Passwords
One of the best ways to make sure that your online accounts are never hacked is to change your passwords on a regular basis. A strong password has 12 characters and also has special characters, letters and numbers. Make sure that people will not be able to easily guess them. Each online account needs to have a different password. If a hacker finds his way into one of your accounts, your other accounts will be safe.
If you are the victim of hacking, you will be within your rights to file a complaint with the your local government agency such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations in the US.