Webcam scam is fooling work from home staff, warns security specialist

Jul 11, 2020

A CLEVER online scam that has been around for years has seen a resurgence  because of the huge increase in use of webcams during lockdown.

The ‘sextortion’ scam fools workers into thinking they have been filmed by their own webcam while visiting adult websites. Some choose to pay up to £1,000 in Bitcoin to prevent the videos being released.

“But these videos do not actually exist,” said data security expert Tony Capewell. “It is just a clever bluff being emailed to millions of people at the same time. You can remove any fear it is real with a simple webcam cover that just costs £3.”

This is typically how the scam goes down, says Mr Capewell, managing director of Milton Keynes-based IT support company Your Cloud Works:

  • You get an unsolicited email from a scammer claiming to have a webcam video recording of you browsing the web during your personal time;
  • It is not specific about what has been recorded, which means you jump to your own conclusion;
  • The scam email also contains your password, which makes it seem more likely you have been hacked. This password is more likely to have come from a breached website;
  • The criminals demand payment in Bitcoin to prevent the video from being released.

Mr Capewell said: “Every laptop and phone released these days have built-in webcams. It is possible for the cameras to be operated without people realising it – although this is rare.”

“The scammers are playing a psychological game, and it makes us angry when we can see they have won.”

Your Cloud Works has issued guidance to its clients: 

  1. Fit sliding webcam covers to all devices.
  2. Reset all passwords using a random generator, and use a password manager to keep track of them easily.
  3. Never panic if you get a scammy email. Talk to a data security expert who sees this sort of thing every day and can offer invaluable context.
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