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Phishing, Spoofing and Webcam Blackmail

January 19th, 2019 by Michael Dyet

Phishing

Hmmm, have you heard the one about…

Not so long ago, that start to a sentence would signal that you are about to tell a joke. Nowadays it is has been appropriated to refer to the latest e-mail scam in circulation. The most well-known example is the supposedly wealthy Nigerian royal family asking for help to get a very large sum of money out of the country.

In recent months, a more insidious one has been circulating that preys on fear and guilt. It says something to the effect that, while you were on a pornographic website, a hacker downloaded his software program onto your computer and used your computers webcam to videotape you in the act of… well, let’s just say a compromising situation.

The scammer claims to have also accessed your e-mail list and threatens to e-mail the video to all your friends unless you pay a specified amount by Bitcoin within 72 hours.

Quick poll: Raise your hand (just kidding!) if you have experienced the following types of scams:

Phishing: Attempting to trick you into revealing personal information like usernames and passwords.

CEO Fraud / Business E-mail Compromise: Someone pretends to be the CEO of your company and asks or instructs you to transfer money or some similar action.

Spoofing: Forging e-mail headers so that the e-mail appears to come from a legitimate source.

These three are known as social engineering which refers to scammers efforts to gain information which they use to perpetrate more scams and/or sell on the Dark Web.

Scams, of course, are not a new phenomenon. Conmen have existed as long as humans have walked this earth. In our era, they have latched onto e-mail as a means to work their cons on a mass market scale. The victim pool is virtually endless given that there are somewhere in the neighbourhood of 4.3 billion e-mail accounts worldwide.

Tech experts are working diligently to find ways to filter out these scam messages. But at present they can only block a small percentage of them. For the record, there is a Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre that collects information and criminal intelligence on such matters. Sadly, I understand that less than 5% of these scams are ever reported.

Medical science has developed the ability to vaccinate us against the most devastating diseases of our time. We can only hope that tech experts may someday find a means to vaccinate our computers against the most malicious e-mail scams.

In the meantime, following a few simple rules is the best protection. If you don’t know the sender, don’t open it. If it seems too good to be true, it usually is. If it seems too frightening to be true, it usually is. And the old reliable: When in doubt, throw it out.

Now Available Online from Amazon, Chapters Indigo or Barnes & Noble: Hunting Muskie, Rites of Passage – Stories by Michael Robert Dyet

~ Michael Robert Dyet is also the author of Until the Deep Water Stills – An Internet-enhanced Novel which was a double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009. Visit Michael’s website at www.mdyetmetaphor.com or the novel online companion at www.mdyetmetaphor.com/blog.

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