Cyber criminals are targeting Irish users as part of a global email extortion campaign, a leading cyber-security company has warned.
SkOUT Secure Intelligence, which provides cyber-security technology and solutions to businesses, organisations and SMEs and has its EMEA headquarters in Portlaoise, has reported a sharp increase in the number of ‘extortion’ emails being sent across Europe.
The group says that these extortions are becoming more common, with a rise in recent months.
Typically, cyber criminals use extortion emails to try to blackmail recipients by claiming that they have access to their passwords and are in possession of private and sensitive material about them. In return for not leaking this sensitive information, cyber-criminals demand a ransom, often in Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency.
“Recipients of these emails may feel coerced into paying the ransom. This is because the password referenced in the email was, in fact, one that they had previously used in an online account and that was tied to their email address,” said Jessvin Thomas, Chief Technology Officer, SkOUT Secure Intelligence.
SkOUT said that the email extortion schemes are becoming increasingly refined and sophisticated as cyber criminals use more recent passwords and other personal data to convince people that the hacking threat is real.
“The fact that cyber criminals have a lot of recent information may lead recipients to give up additional personal information, which in turn could lead to higher ransoms,” Mr Thomas said.
“Do not open attachments from people you don’t know and flag emails that look like spam,” Mr Thomas added.