Crypto Extortion on the Rise, Says Academic Study

Crypto-based extortion –  basically the process of using spam-flinging botnet armies to “ransom” dirty pictures and compromising information in exchange for bitcoin  –  has turned virtual crime into child’s play.

Speaking this week at the Advances in Financial Technology conference in Zurich, an international team comprised of researchers from the Austrian Technology Institute and security provider GoSecure sampled a population of email spam and found that the extortion process was quick, easy, and very lucrative.

Using public data hack info, the researchers found that a single instance of the popular Necurs botnet launched over 80 campaigns and in the 4.3 million emails surveyed by the team. In almost all cases the criminals had no incriminating information on the victims.

The team said that the botnet was surprisingly lucrative. By renting a botnet for $10,000 per month, the extortionists have been making at least $130,000. Compared to most extortion schemes, the spam campaign is incredibly simple, largely due to its employment of cryptocurrencies, said GoSecure’s Masarah Paquet-Clouston. Read More...


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