The FBI warns that there is a new threat that seems to be growing in popularity. Cyber criminals are now harvesting personal information like photos and videos from online sources. In some of these cases they have phished them or even coerced a victim into sending them.
These cyber criminals are using tools like deepfakes, with artificial intelligence, to create sexually explicit photos or videos of victims if they have enough data. They use these images or videos to extort unsuspecting victims into sending them payment or the photos go live on social media and other channels. These tools are becoming much easier to use; they are more effective, in some cases they’re free, and they require less data and time to render content. The FBI warns that in 2021 alone they received 16,000 sextortion complaints and reported losses exceeding 8 million USD.
To put this threat into perspective, the UK Ministry of Justice reports that close to 1 in 14 adults in England and Wales have been extorted with sexual and intimate images or videos. They also report that in 2021 there were more than 28,000 reports of private sexual images being shared without consent.
The reports also mention that in some cases, the cyber criminals simply posted the explicit videos or images of victims using artificial intelligence without their knowledge or consent. The FBI sadly reports that this threat is now impacting minors as well. To protect children, the US offers The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as a free service called Take It Down. This service guides victims and helps stop the proliferation of this type of content.
The UK has also implemented amendments to the Online Safety Bill, to protect victims from cyber criminals who share these explicit “deepfakes” without their consent. The Home Office reports that funding continues to increase in support of services in support of this bill that have shown good success. They report that since 2015, they have provided support for nearly 16,000 people and had 270,000 individual pieces of content taken down.
With all the recent focus on generative AI, quantum computing, ChatGPT, and other emerging technology this seemed inevitable. In our 2022 research this was a risk at that time, but now that risk is becoming a reality. AI-powered rendering software, also known as deepfakes, is easier to use, is free in some cases, has cheaper and more efficient compute, and is a business opportunity bad actors won’t pass up.
Kaspersky also reports that dark web sites offer services to train cyber criminals on how to use these tools to extort victims. We see this only growing in popularity and becoming easier to do. In some cases, this is being offered today as a paid-for service in porn hubs. Cyber criminals are starting to explore different ways to get the most money out of victims with this weapon in their arsenal.
Report any type of extortion activity to local law enforcement – there are provisions to help victims with these new methods of sextortion.
- Limit the amount of videos of yourself or family that you share online.
- Apply privacy settings on social media accounts.
- Secure social media and other online accounts using multi-factor authentication.
- Further information: