With the advent of technology and the internet, the rate of cyber fraud and data breaches has increased exponentially. Cyber extortion is a type of cybercrime where the victim is robbed of control over their systems, and their data is held, hostage. Cyber attacks can be carried out by hackers working as an organization or as individuals.
Listed below are some types of cyber extortion and a few ways of reporting and preventing it. What is cyber extortion? In cyber extortion, hackers threaten to shut down a target company's operations or compromise its sensitive or essential data in exchange for money, confidential information, or both. Types of cyber extortion Ransomware Hackers frequently use malicious software or ransomware to target corporations and government organizations. This software enters a system, encrypts data, and prevents all access to crucial files. Typically, it is sent via emails, websites, or links with unsuspecting headlines. After gaining system control, the hacker offers to decrypt files in exchange for money. Failure to do so may lead to data misuse. DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack DDoS attacks block users from accessing business websites, mobile apps, and other online services. In DDoS, cybercriminals overwhelm the business by sending high traffic and bots to its website. In addition, the attack denies user access and leads to service overload and financial loss. Email-based extortion Email-based cyber extortion is done to businesses as well as individuals. For example, an unethical hacker may take on the role of a needy or a bank associate to extort sensitive banking information or ask the victim to transfer money. Cyber blackmail Threatening a victim online with the release of private information, compromising photos, or public humiliation in return for money is known as cyber blackmail. Four ways to report cyber extortion Cyber extortion is rare, but if one suspects any criminal activity, one can immediately report it in the following ways: Submitting a complaint to IC3 Contacting law enforcement organizations or the police is the first step to dealing with the issue. For example, one can file a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) by visiting their website. Specialized units are trained to handle such situations. Additionally, do not fall for extortionists’ threats. Their claim that they will be informed if they contact the authorities is often incorrect. Approaching the FBI Field Office One can also report offline at one’s nearest FBI Field office. Most metropolitan areas in the country have designated field offices that carry out cybercrime investigations and regional threats. Contacting CISA One can also get in touch with CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure security agency) via their hotline number, 1-888-282-0870, by sending an encrypted email, filling out their online form, or visiting their regional office. Calling 911 If one is in immediate danger, one can even call 911 or the local police to get urgent help. What happens after the complaint is filed? The authorities first ask for relevant information from the victim, including contact details, financial transactions, IP and email address, and details about the attack. The complaint is then examined by trained analysts, who send it forward to national, state, local, or international regulatory bodies for appropriate action. Ways to prevent cyber extortion Verifying an email’s authenticity is advisable and only open those from trusted sources. Be wary of any emails laden with grammatical errors and unusual email handles. Businesses can lower the risk of cyber attacks by training employees and workers regarding phishing or suspicious emails, cyber risks, and spam. Also, one can invest in cyber insurance policies, create regular backups of one’s data, and use a VPN connection for remote employees.