A large Scandinavian university was hit earlier this month by a crook who used – or tried to use – email threats to con money out of an unnamed victim.
Several university officials received an e-mail from a fraudster who appeared to be based in Estonia, F-Secure research manager Mikko Hypponen is quoted as saying in a Reuters report here going on:
"The e-mail said several security vulnerabilities had been detected on the university’s network and that unless the e-mail recipient transferred 20 euros ($25) to the author’s online bank account, he would release a series of viruses capable of deleting a host of computer files."
The story says this kind of cyber crime is apparently on the increase and, "Cyber blackmail artists are shaking down office workers, threatening to delete computer files or install pornographic images on their work PCs unless they pay a ransom, police and security experts said.
"The extortion scam, which is believed to have surfaced one year ago, indiscriminately targets anyone on the corporate ladder with a PC connected to the Internet.
"It usually starts with a threatening e-mail in which the author claims to have the power to take over a worker’s computer through an exploit in the corporate network, experts said.
"The e-mail typically contains a demand that unless a small fee is paid – at first no more than $20 or $30 – they will attack the PC with a file-wiping program or download onto the machine images of child pornography."
Because the ransom is small, people tend to pay up and keep quiet, the report says, adding that police say the number of cases is tailing off, "but because it so often goes unreported, there is little evidence the crime is actually in decline".