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Security & privacy

Scary new malware allows hackers to record people visiting porn sites

In the world of hackers, blackmail and extortion are the some of the most effective ways to make money. These tactics prey on people who can’t fight back, and are relatively cheap and easy to deploy. Click or tap to see how devastating a wide-scale ransomware attack can be.

A popular trick used by online extortionists involves claims they’ve captured footage of their victim watching porn, then threatening to distribute the footage if a ransom isn’t paid. This tactic is usually an empty threat, but new research by cybersecurity experts reveal things might be changing.

Hackers have finally figured out how to spy on victims via webcams. By actually capturing people in compromising scenarios, hackers can now make good their threats. Here’s what you need to watch out for, as well as how you can steer clear of this camera-jacking malware.

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Researchers at cybersecurity firm Proofpoint have provided evidence that hackers may no longer be bluffing when they attempt to extort people. They discovered a malicious piece of software called “PsiXBot” that has been infecting computers globally for some time now by hijack your webcam and capture video of you without your knowledge.

But here’s where this software gets sinister: PsiXBot lies in wait and does nothing to make itself obvious until you visit an adult-themed website with an explicit keyword in the title. This triggers the program to activate, and it immediately opens your webcam and starts filming. Hackers use this data to blackmail you in exchange for Bitcoin.

Until recently, most instances of so-called “sextortion” scams were nothing more than bluster. Hackers would obtain usernames and passwords from leaked databases and use them to feign knowledge of your activities. With the advent of PsiXBot, the threat is no longer imaginary. Click or tap for a detailed overview on sextortion scams.

How can I protect myself from this horrible malware?

As far as the researchers could tell, PsiXBot only affects Windows PCs, so smartphone and Mac users are safe — for now. The malware is often installed remotely via malicious websites, or attached to shady file downloads like pirated music and films.

Unverified adult websites are currently the biggest vector for transmission, so steer clear of those at all costs. Essentially, if you’re visiting seedy places on the web, expect seedy things to happen to your computer

If you somehow get a sextortion email anyway, it’s no longer something to take lightly, though you’re better off ignoring it than responding. Responding only lets the hackers know you’re vulnerable, and may encourage them to follow you further.

The researchers and law enforcement both advise flagging any sextortion email as spam, and contacting relevant authorities if you feel like you’re in danger.

Another way to protect yourself is to frequently scan your system for viruses. It can potentially flag down malware on your computer and prevent you from dealing with sextortion or blackmail. Click or tap here for 3 downloads to help protect your computer.

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