If you aren’t aware of “sextortion,” you may not be alone. The term doesn’t relate to any verifiably listed crime, but a class of crimes and the behaviour falls into a number of different methods to accomplish. It relates to an individual or individuals gaining access to pornographic or semi-pornographic images and videos, supplied by their contacts who are typically teens and pre-teens, and then extorting them for money. While these actions are considered to be crimes, unlike some other crimes, due to the internet, they can occur across country borders.
Considered to be similar to remote sexual assault, the perpetrators prey on the vulnerable. Many of these cases are prosecuted in local and government courts, but not enough attention is being given to this topic. In one piece of research done by the Brookings Institute, they found eighty cases involving over 3,000 victims.
Sextortion Happens in many locations
The problem with sextortion is that it can occur in a lot of virtual situations. It may start as a friendly conversation in a chat room, on social media, or even if someone’s cell phone is hacked. Since it is a form of cybercrime, the perpetrators are criminals. They begin by demanding that the teen or pre-teen send images or videos of themselves and if they refuse, they are threatened to have other so-called images of them exposed to friends and family. The victim is typically young and in a state of fear and complies with the demands. This, of course, leads to more demands of more images. In most cases there is also a monetary demand for payment lest the images/videos be shared on the web.
Little to no Attention
The secondary problem with sextortion is that law enforcement is not really monitoring or keeping track of all of these as specific crimes and therefore no one really knows the true depth of these attacks. Unlike another form of virtual predatory behaviour known as “revenge porn” where the victims are typically older in age, sextortion victims are often much younger and make the choice to remain anonymous.
The topic has had little to no attention via the media and by the time parents or guardians might be involved due to financial demands of the attacker, the victims can be in such a state of embarrassment and shame that some have even attempted suicide.
Due to the ability of the predator to function from a virtual aspect, they can cross international lines, often having hundreds of victims in many locations. In the same Brookings study they found that sextortion perpetrators were often repeat offender and were uniformly male. However, their victims ranged from adult females all the way to a large percentage of underage children, a sizeable percentage of these being male. It is surprisingly common and yet because these actions float along various crime levels, even prosecution can vary when the perpetrators are actually caught. Make no mistake, sextortion is sexual exploitation and should be brought to the attention of lawmakers
“In lieu of laws and law enforcement guidelines regarding sextortion, DaVinci Cybersecurity will review the methods used by these perpetrators to assist our clients in recognising these kinds of crimes in a proactive way. We understand the embarrassment many may feel for falling prey to these criminals and can assist those in total confidentiality.”
Sharon Knowles, CEO DaVinci Cybersecurity