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And if she did not send it within one day, he threatened to publish the images already in his possession, and “let [her] family know about [her] dark side.” If she contacted law enforcement, he promised he would publish the photos on the Internet too.Later in the day, to underscore his seriousness, the hacker followed up with another email threatening the victim: “You have six hours.” This victim knew her correspondent only as [email protected], but the attacker turned out to be a talented 32-year-old proficient in multiple computer languages.And they share material with other teenagers whose cyberdefense practices are even laxer than their own.Sextortion thus turns out to be quite easy to accomplish in a target-rich environment that often does not require more than malicious guile.We found nearly 80 such cases involving, by conservative estimates, more than 3,000 victims. Prosecutors colloquially call this sort of crime “sextortion.” And while not all cases are as sophisticated as this one, a great many sextortion cases have taken place―in federal courts, in state courts, and internationally―over a relatively short span of time.
The malware Mijangos wrote was sophisticated, and he told federal authorities that he designed it specifically to be undetectable to antivirus programs.
Unlike its close cousin, the form of nonconsensual pornography known as “revenge porn,” the problem of sextortion has not received sustained press attention or action in numerous state legislatures, in part because with few exceptions, sextortion victims have chosen to remain anonymous, as the law in most jurisdictions permits. The 78 cases we reviewed alone involve at least 1,397 victims, and this is undoubtedly just the tip of the iceberg.