Nondescript cities of Rajasthan and Haryana like Mewat, Bharatpur, Alwar are spinning an evil revolution. Teenage school dropouts and their uneducated but cunning brains organize sextortion rackets that span multiple countries and earn millions. Policemen, politicians, businessmen, doctors have all fallen prey to their machinations. India witnesses over 500 cases of sextortion daily (less than 0.5% are registered as FIR), making it the sextortion capital of the world.
Consider the case of a public representative (MLA) of the ruling Shiv Sena in Mumbai, who was the victim of sextortion in November 2021, where cyber crook Mohammed Khan used cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology to blackmail the MLA. The criminal was arrested in Rajasthan, but not before exploiting over 300 gullible victims and extorting over Rs 20 lakh.
Equally egregious is the case of Rajasthan Minister Ram Lal Jat and BJP MP Pragya Thakur in February 2022, where cyber crooks Ravin Khan and Waris Khan from Bharatpur had the courage to threaten them with obscene videos. However, the most tragic case occurred in March 2021 when a 26-year-old MBA student in Bengaluru, BS Avinash, committed suicide after being traumatized by relentless extortion, while chatting sexually with an alias Neha Sharma profile. He fell victim to the evil designs of the sextortionists and even paid Rs 36,000. The suicide was encouraged by relentless ransom demands, which continued even after his death.
Particularly harrowing is the case of a former Gujarat minister who was sextorted and paid Rs 2.5 lakh before alerting the police and it was discovered that the woman he was sexting with was not even a woman. woman, it was a fake avatar. created by cyber crooks Hakimuddin and his three relatives, who called it a “family business”.
What is sextortion?
Sextortion is a malicious online crime in which cybercriminals threaten to distribute or “go viral” private, sensitive and sexually explicit material about the victim, if they do not receive sexual favors, sexually oriented images or ‘money.
Sextortionists focus on relatively affluent men between the ages of 45 and 60, struggling with the sexual monotony of a midlife crisis. Weeks or even months of digital reconnaissance missions are launched to identify targets and gather relevant information.
Fake profiles of extremely attractive women are already created and meticulous care is taken to make them look realistic, i.e. long profile timeline, regular updating or uploading of attractive and realistic images on a regular basis, etc Friend requests are sent from these fake but realistic profiles to identified targets. The requests come from openly friendly and seemingly attractive women on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, dating sites or even marriage sites.
At this point, the technological aspects are put on the backburner and a psychological technique called “social engineering” is used to gain the trust of the gullible victim. Social engineering refers to the psychological tricks used by perpetrators to manipulate victims through deception and fraud.
The scammers trick and then trick them into engaging in sexual orientation video calls, usually the female accomplices in the gang are brainwashed into engaging in lewd video calls and recording them using video recording apps. integrated or downloaded screens. These recorded salacious clips then become instruments of extortion causing untold trauma to the victim.
With over 70 million smartphones (each acting as a powerful computer in their own right), in India the pastures for spreading the tentacles of sextortion are rampant. This, coupled with the extreme hypocrisy and stigma attached to sexual desires in Indian society, facilitates fertile ground to ensnare unsuspecting victims.
Sextortion is a traumatic, terrifying and dehumanizing violation that feeds on victim shame and societal stigma. Most often, the ordeal ends with the death of the victim.
Evolution of sextortion
The first cases of sextortion date back to 2006, when a journalist living in a typical Mumbai studio and accustomed to online chatting, fell victim to a spear phishing attack, where a malicious code called video keylogger virus was installed on her computer. portable.
Therefore, whatever she typed, all keystrokes were recorded on her laptop’s hard drive and emailed to the cybercriminal. Even his WebCam was inadvertently turned on and all images were transferred the same. All videos and data were meticulously gathered and used to blackmail the gullible victim. The girl attempted suicide and was later counseled.
Similarly, another case of cyberbullying conflated with sextortion is the famous suicide case of American teenager Megan Meyer, who hanged herself weeks before her 14th birthday. Apparently, Laurie Drew, mother of Megan’s classmate Sarah Drew and her neighbor, created a fake profile of a seemingly smart teenager ‘Josh Evans’, who regularly had romantic chats with Megan, gained her trust and was aware of his photos and extreme private issues. impacting his mental space. The intense cyberbullying and threats to expose Megan as a “bad girl” scarred her psyche and drove her to take her own life.
The paradigm shift in the approach to extortion came with the tragic suicide of 17-year-old British teenager Daniel Perry in 2013 due to the traumatic effects of sextortion, even after paying $10,000 to a Philippines-based syndicate, the world’s first organized sophisticated sextortion group. by Maria Caparas, aka “Queen of Sextortion”. She was a “Slumdog millionaire”, who rose like a phoenix from the slums of Manila to a royal mansion, which became the seat of the biggest sextortion empire in the world.
There were at least a hundred well-equipped cabins in his mansion where teenagers were employed to “dress and talk like pretty girls” and trick victims around the world. Daniel’s suicide shook the world and Interpol launched ‘Operation Strikeback’ also dubbed ‘Goya’ and arrested the ‘sextortion queen’ but not before she had amassed at least $1 billion from illicit racketeering .
The glaring irony is that ‘Archie Tolin’ has been identified as the person who encouraged Daniel’s suicide, he wasn’t even a girl but a young Filipino boy, trained by Maria herself and he’s still not not apprehended. Maria, in turn, was cleared of all charges and released within a year of her incarceration, allegedly by bribing the police and the judiciary.
The poignant words of Nicola Perry, Daniel’s mother, are epiphanic and strike a cathartic chord – “the manner in which Daniel died is every parent’s nightmare. If we want to make sure no other parent loses a loved one, please make sure your child is warned not to share intimate photos or personal information online.”
Thus, from 2006 to 2022, extortion was embodied in the following four avatars
First Generation Sextortion 1.0: The women were mostly victims perpetrated by estranged lovers who threatened to publish their intimate photos as “revenge porn”. Primitive recording devices were used.
Second Generation Sextortion 2.0 : Fake profiles of cute girls were created by male scammers and an imaginary world was created using technological tools such as voice modulation apps, which converted male voice to female voice on calls VOIP. Money Mule bank accounts (bank accounts opened with fake documents) were used to demand ransom, WhatsApp sexting followed by naked video calls were used to trick victims. Screen recording, video editing, morphing apps also emerged in this phase.
Third Generation Sextortion 3.0: During this phase, male extortionists began to employ and train beautiful girls to ensnare victims. This was a groundbreaking development that catapulted sextortion into an organized crime syndicate. Money Mule bank accounts were replaced by cryptocurrency wallets, which offered a higher degree of impunity and anonymity.
Fourth Generation Sextortion 4.0: innovative, last and pioneer phase, where it is not necessary to bait a victim or to employ females to trap honey. Deep-fake and deep-nude technologies have made it possible for anyone to be a victim of sextortion, without engaging in any form of conversation or sexual offense online.
Deep-fake and deep-nude
The expression deep-fake comes from a combination of ‘deep learning’ and ‘fake’. Deep learning is an artificial intelligence-based technology that seamlessly juxtaposes a victim’s face to a porn actor’s face in a given video, exactly mimicking emotions, expressions, and body language. This is done in such a sophisticated way that the fake video looks absolutely genuine and authentic.
The deep nudity app goes one step further and creates a seemingly authentic nude image or video of a female victim in seconds. There is absolutely no need to source a girl’s porn video that matches the victim’s profile and body type, Photoshop the video clip and even then the results weren’t flawless. Deep Fake and Deep Nude applications give devilish, instant and flawless results.
Famous Indian journalist Rana Ayyub a few years ago was regularly harassed and threatened with rape on online platforms as part of slanderous campaigns, due to her iconoclastic writing style.
When she stood up to supporters of a child rapist in Kathua, she experienced unprecedented horrors and had to be hospitalized. A scrupulously made Deep-fake video of Rana Ayyub emerged, which graphically depicted the lady engaging in sexual activity like a porn actress. Her number was flashed in the video and she was inundated with thousands of perv calls.
The video was shared on all major platforms and also reached her on her own phone. She was devastated and became unconscious for days. Likewise, all the big celebrities have already been victims of Deep-nude videos like Angelina Jolie, Emma Watson, Aishwarya Rai, Katrina Kaif and the list is endless.
The perverse pleasure of seeing famous celebrities without clothes makes these apps popular, oblivious to the immense trauma caused. The cyber department of Maharashtra has already launched a proposal to ban the aforementioned apps.
Warranties: While sextortionists can use every tool available to harass, embarrass, traumatize and control victims, it is high time the demon was caught headlong and crushed by increasing awareness and societal de-stigmatization of the evil of sextortion.
It is pertinent to note that the Internet never forgets and never forgives and its reach and spread is rapid and enormous. Our younger generation with impressionable minds should be groomed to ensure that they should never indulge in lewd video calls and if a stranger rushes in to develop intimacy, alarm bells should ring. Racketeers must be exposed and brought to justice without fear.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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