Online sexual blackmail attempts are on the rise, what to do

According to research, sexual blackmail is rapidly growing online. Here's how to avoid ending up among the victims

It's usually younger people who fall for it but, looking at the latest statistics, it's a rapidly growing phenomenon that now affects all age groups. The sextortion (literally sexual extortion), in short, has become a threat as real as common, able to hit a little bit everyone at any time.

In the past weeks, for example, a considerable number of Italian Internet users have received an e-mail message with a not too veiled threat. Either we gave in to blackmail - by paying a sum in Bitcoin - or hackers would spread images of us watching porn videos (or the web history of our visits to porn sites would be spread). What we just did is but one of many examples, probably also among the most sophisticated, of sextortion. In many cases, all it takes is a video call on WhatsApp or Skype with a friend or a person you know and a little shrewdness to fall into the trap.

And according to researchers Barracuda, a software house active in the field of computer security, attempts at blackmail for sexual purposes are growing rapidly. You are twice as likely to be a victim of red light blackmail as any other type of phishing threat. The most affected sectors are those of university and education and public administration.

What is sextortion

As mentioned, the word sextortion is a neologism born from the cross between sex and extortion, sex and extortion. It is, therefore, a red light blackmail that travels by telematics. The request for money in order not to reveal dirty secrets of our life can arrive, as said, via e-mail or, as it happens much more often, via messaging applications such as WhatsApp. The person who blackmails, whether it is a hacker, an acquaintance or someone we have met by chance on the web, claims to have images that depict us while we are naked or while we perform some unseemly action (while watching porn videos on the Internet, for example). And, of course, he threatens to reveal them if we decide not to pay the amount he's asking.

How to defend against online sexual blackmail

The easiest way to avoid being blackmailed - and blackmailed - is to avoid trusting strangers online. It can happen to anyone to get carried away by certain situations, but in the event that you are faced with strangers (or people you don't fully trust), don't let yourself go into uncomfortable attitudes. In this way, no one will be able to get images that could compromise your good name.

In case you receive an email with threats - such as spreading photos of yourself watching X-rated movies - don't be fooled. Even if the hacker claims to have figured out your email password, he is only trying to scam you - the access key is a result of an old credential theft and has nothing to do with your web history.