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April 09, 2019

Porn Extortionist Linked To Russian Cybercrime Ring Is Jailed

When he was just 17 years old, Zain Qaiser of Barking, Essex, a county just east of London, England, came up with a sophisticated scheme to blackmail visitors to legal online porn sites. And with the help of an international Russian crime syndicate, he pulled off the massive scam to the tune of $915,000—that authorities know of, according to Britain’s National Crime Agency, which investigated Qaiser’s cyber crime spree. But on Tuesday, Qaiser—who is now 24 years old—finally saw his case come to a close, as he was sentenced to more than six years behind bars, according to the BBC. Investigators, however, believe that Qaiser may have made even more money than they were able to find, and the Russian crime organization that backed him may have taken in more than $5.2 million from the porn scam, according to the BBC.  With backing from the Russians, the teen computer prodigy carried out his extortion scheme by placing hundreds of bogus advertisements, albeit using legitimate online advertising agencies, on some of the most popular legal porn sites. Tracking just one of the fake ads, the NCA found that the ad was viewed 21 million times in a single month, according to the BBC. When a user clicked on one of the ads, it secretly downloaded a malicious software app created by the Russian cyber criminals onto the unsuspecting user’s computer. When activated, the malware would take over the user’s computer, covering the screen with a message purporting to be from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The bogus warning—an example of which can be seen at this link—often claimed that the FBI had secretly taken photos of the user enjoying porn, and threatening to prosecute the user for the offense of “illegally downloading material,” unless the user coughed up an immediate “fine” of about $200. Most victims simply sent the payment, seeking to avoid public embarrassment. Qaiser’s scam was actually spotted by online advertising brokers—but the scammer threatened them with massive hacking attacks. After launching a denial of service attack against a Canadian company that had ordered him to stop taking out the bogus ads, the company alerted police. But none of the thousands of victims ever reported the extortion scheme. Though Qaiser has been stopped, similar scams remain in operation. Just last week, AVN.com reported on an email scam targeting internet users with fake letters claiming that they were under investigation by the CIA. The NCA described the operation that nabbed Qiaser as "an extremely long-running, complex cyber-crime investigation" that also involved authorities in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Photo by U.K. National Crime Agency 

 
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