Online ‘sextortion’ cases spike in Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: Cybersex extortion or “sextortion” cases online have increased during the movement control order (MCO) period, says CyberSecurity Malaysia.

It happens mostly in two ways: either the victim is conned into doing sexual acts in front of a camera during a video call with a scammer, or the cybercriminal blackmails them through email.

A total of 23 cases were reported to the agency between the start of the MCO on March 18 and April 14.

“This is an increase from 15 cases recorded during the same period last year. In 2018, there were six cases,” CyberSecurity Malaysia chief executive officer Datuk Dr Amirudin Abdul Wahab told The Star.Of the 23 cases during the MCO, two victims were aged below 18 while most of the others were aged between 19 and 55.

In some incidents, scammers use pre-recorded webcam footage of beautiful women to lure the victim into engaging with them, while disguising their identity.

“And in some cases, the cybercriminals actually do upload videos of their victims on YouTube,” revealed Dr Amirudin.

“We then assist the victim by notifying YouTube to remove the video.”

As for how scammers threaten victims via email, they usually claim to have embarrassing videos of the victim watching porn after gaining access to the victim’s webcam.

The scammers gain control of the webcam when the victim goes to a porn site, which is planted with malware by the scammer.

“However, victims should not respond or pay the scammer as this does not guarantee that the threats will end,” said Dr Amirudin.

He added that the increase in “sextortion” cases also comes in light of higher online traffic to the pornographic website Pornhub.

Based on Pornhub’s insights, Malaysia is the top Asian country that is most likely to surf for “coronavirus-

themed porn” on the site.

Worldwide, Malaysian visitors take the fourth spot in this context after Slovakia, Bulgaria and Ireland.

Pornhub said traffic to its site had risen compared to before the pandemic as most people were either self-isolating or working at home.

“The peak increase of 24.4% happened on March 25,” the site said in a compilation of its data.

Dr Amirudin said the increase in “sextortion” cases in Malaysia also corroborated with a in various cybersecurity incidents reported to the agency’s Cyber999 help centre during the MCO.

“The most reported incident is fraud, which includes phishing, online scams and fraud purchases.

“Other top incidents include cyberharassment, which involves ‘sextortion’,” he said.

These cases also happen due to the lack of cybersecurity awareness, vulnerabilities due to outdated end-user systems and unsecured network configurations.

Sunday Star recently reported that cybersecurity cases had spiked by a whopping 82.5% during the MCO period compared to the same time last year.

Some 838 incidents were reported between March 18 and April 7 this year, compared to 459 in the same period in 2019.

“We foresee that cases will rise as cyberattackers will take this opportunity to do more damage.

“During the MCO, people will generally use digital gadgets such as laptops or smartphones to interact, do business, purchase things and play online games,” Dr Amirudin said.He urged the public not to panic if they receive any kind of threats.

They should report cybersecurity incidents by contacting Cyber999’s emergency hotline at 1300 882 999 (9am to 9pm) or its mobile number 019-266 5850 (24-hour helpline).

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