How to deal with online sextortion

Written on 05/26/2022
Amanish Lohan

Sextortion has become a major crime on the internet these days. With the advancement in technology comes the curse of mischief which sometimes becomes hard to manage. Sextortion is such an act where cyber criminals threaten to spread or ‘make viral’ any personal, mostly sensitive or sexually explicit media of the victim. The threat is usually in form of blackmail for money or sexual favors itself. This leads to a plethora of issues for the victim, including tainting of name and a psychologically harrowing experience. 

Why does sextortion happen?

There are a number of reasons why sextortion happens on the internet. Contrary to popular opinion, sextortion doesn’t always take place for the need of money. There are many instances where revenge becomes a major reason for sextortion as well. To understand this, we need to dwell into the details of different levels of sextortion.

At the very basic level, sextortion rises from a feeling of revenge or anger by estranged lovers who fell apart in a non-conducive manner. Many couples, most of the times under the pressure of the other person, agree to record intimate moments on the mobile phones or other devices.

At that moment, the sense that they may not be a couple in the future does not go through their minds. When things fall apart, it results in threats of releasing intimate pictures or videos in exchange for money, or in many instances, just for revenge and satisfaction. 

Techniques used

There’s another level to sextortion, which involves individuals who are not necessarily known to the victim. Through the creation of fake profiles of attractive girls, these male scammers use voice modulation and other tools to lure people into their trap. The victim is forced to believe that he is conversing with a real girl and ends up being honey trapped.

Another technique associated with this one is hiring attractive girls to lure such victims into video calls and recording compromising calls. This has resulted in organized syndicated carrying out operations across various cities now. Even the female accomplices are more willing to participate as they do not need to be with the victim physically. Most of the target victims are men who are either married or in a relationship. This provides leverage to the perpetrators in order to blackmail the victim. 

However, there is another side to sextortion which does not need any involvement from the victim. Technologies like deep-fake now allow perpetrators to forge images and videos by morphing the face of the victim. This technology now even has the ability to match the emotions or expressions of the original face in the video. This makes it extremely difficult to identify whether the video is a fake or not. All they need is one photograph from the front. And these days, the obsession of taking selfies and posting these online makes it more easier for perpetrators to create such fake content and blackmail victims. 

How to deal with it

Prevention is always better than cure. We need to understand that the digital world is not our living room or our personal space. Anything and everything which we post or share online, even through private encrypted channels, has the potential to become public. Hence, we need to be extra careful in determining what type of content are we sharing online.

This urge of posting photographs or videos online and begging for likes is what makes it easy for cyber-criminals to extort money and favours from individuals. Until absolutely required, one should not share any personal moment online, including photographs and videos.

Similarly, people in a relationship should not bow down to the other person when asking for nudes or any content which can compromisey our integrity in the future. Even if the other person does not leak it, there is a good chance the content can be hacked and shared online.

Similarly, do not post a plethora of selfies online. All machine learning technologies crave for data and the more images the perpetrators have, easier it is for them to create a refined deep-fake video where your face could be morphed over anything. 

In addition, you can always seek assistance from our Cyber Crime Investigation Officers who are a part of the Copconnect initiative. We have a team of first responders who can guide you on how to file a complaint against sextortion. They can also guide you on how to preserve evidences which can prove useful in implicating the perpetrators in court.

You can also reach out to any cyber cell across the country and file a complaint in this regard.