A new sextortion scam has been hitting millions of email inboxes. In the messages, the hackers claim to have taken over your computer and recorded you watching porn, with plans to release the footage unless you pay up. But the threat is a sham. Count yourself lucky if you haven’t received this email or a similar one in the past few months. These so-called sextortion scams are on the rise, fueled by the past years' data breaches that have released personal information into the wild. 

The messages are sent to email addresses exposed in previously known data breaches in which the user database (email address and password) was indexed online," said Brian Krebs, editor of the security news site
Hackers have been flooding inboxes across the world with messages that claim to have taken over your computer and filmed you watching porn. Pay up (in Bitcoin, naturally) or your adult video-watching habits will be made public, the messages say. Before you have a heart attack, though, know that it's all a ruse. Millions of emails were sent to recipients last month in a variety of languages including English, French, Japanese and Arabic, according to security researchers at IBM.

In the messages, the hacker claims to have installed a "RAT" or remote access Trojan on the recipient's computer. "I posted my virus on porn site, and then you installed it on your Operation System," the message will read. "After installation, your front camera shoots video every time you masturbate."
The email then contains a threat: pay up or the video will be sent to all your friends and colleagues. The messages demand that you send between $250 and $550 in Bitcoin to a digital wallet.

The crooks don't actually have access to your computer, nor do they have any idea if you watch porn. The hackers are simply trying to scare you into giving in to their extortion demand, IBM's research report said.

Unfortunately, the ploy appears to be working. IBM's security researchers examined some of the emails and collected over 500 Bitcoin wallet addresses. Twenty of those wallets now hold over $50,000 in Bitcoin.

"Like other phishing and social engineering scams, it is often a numbers game," IBM researchers said. Only a few victims need to fall for the scheme to make it worthwhile.

So who might be behind the extortion scheme? IBM researchers point to the notorious Necurs botnet, which has been around since 2012, and according to security researchers, is available for rent to cybercriminals who use it to spread ransomware, banking Trojans, and spam email. At least a million infected computers are believed to be part of the botnet.

The scam is a reminder to carefully scrutinize incoming email. Another variation of the scam claims to have caught the email recipient having an extramarital affair. Security journalist Brian Krebs also documented a similar "sextortion" email scheme in July. However, the hackers tried to lend the threat some added credibility by including an old password the email recipient once used.

Finally, “don't respond to spam at all, period,” says security expert Krebs. “Don't pay off extortionists.” In other words, be computer smart and think before you click.

Reference: Don't Fall for This Email Sextortion Scam