July 24, 2019
Cybersecurity

‘Sextortion’ a rising epidemic in Philippines, says Trend Micro 

GUARD your private life seriously, or you will get into big trouble.

By “private life,” it means specially your sexual adventures. Well, that includes one’s bedroom intimate moments, or you will pay dearly.

Trend Micro, “a global leader in cybersecurity solutions, was warned that “sextortion,” which it describes as “the process (of) forcibly demanding money or sexual favors by threatening to publish a victim’s recorded sexual activity, is a growing epidemic in the Philippines.”

In fact, the cybersecurity company pointed out, the Philippines is now regarded as “one of (sextortion’s) biggest breeding ground(s).”

Moreover, blackmailers do not have to be certain of getting what they are demanding from victims; just the same they will do sextortion anyway.

The reason is that “the highly personal nature of this kind of attacks will make the victim seriously consider the attacker’s demands whether that means money or sexual favors.”

Trend Micro sees sextortion rising in the country, and it can cause victims’ lives.

“As sextortion, in particular, becomes more widespread, this kind of attacks will affect, and perhaps even claim, more lives in 2019,” the company warns.

This development and other data are contained in a report of Trend Micro titled Mapping the Future: Dealing with Pervasive and Persistent Threats in 2019.

The report shines on the trends and tactics cybercriminals are most likely to employ this year.

Fake news is not going away anytime soon, the report pointed out.

And because of the proliferation of fake news on social media, a regulation of accounts may not be far away as government will increasingly develop interest in looking into social accounts’ authenticity.

Here’s a media release from Trend Micro sent to SDN — Science and Digital News.

MANILA, Philippines— Trend Micro, a global leader in cybersecurity solutions, shared its 2019 predictions report that highlights the trends and tactics cybercriminals are most likely to employ in 2019.

The report, Mapping the Future: Dealing with Pervasive and Persistent Threats, highlights the growing threats faced by consumers and organizations that are exacerbated by the increasingly connected world. The report warns that attackers will increase in the effectiveness of proven attack methods, by adding more sophisticated elements to take advantage of the changing technology landscape.

“Cybercriminals will continue to follow a winning formula – exploit existing flaws, social engineering and stolen credentials – to drive profits,” said Ian Felipe, country manager for Trend Micro Philippines. “As both corporate attacks surface and unknown cyber threats increase, it’s more important than ever for organizations to put more resources behind cybersecurity education to help protect against these growing attacks.”

 E-celeb accounts will be abused in watering hole attacks

The role of social engineering in successful attacks against businesses and individuals is predicted to increase throughout the year. It is expected that cybercriminals will compromise famous YouTubers and other “online-famous” personalities’ social media accounts, including Instagram and Twitter, by taking over their accounts via targeted phishing attacks. These will shine a light on account security in mainstream media, but not before millions of users following these accounts have been affected by whatever payload the attackers have in store for them.

Trend Micro

Filipinos spend an average of three hours and 57 minutes a day on social media sites. Among their activities are following celebrities and reading their updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sextortion cases will rise

Sextortion, or the process forcibly demanding money or sexual favors by threatening to publish a victim’s recorded sexual activity, is a growing epidemic in the Philippines, with the country being seen as one of the crime’s biggest breeding ground.  Even if there is no guarantee that a blackmailer will come through, the highly personal nature of this kind of attacks will make the victim seriously consider fulfilling the attacker’s demands, whether that means money or sexual favors. As sextortion, in particular, becomes more widespread, this kind of attacks will affect, and perhaps even claim, more lives in 2019.

Fake news will continue to proliferate

The 2018 Pulse Asia Research shares that 9 out of 10 Filipinos who surf the internet to access their social media accounts are aware of fake news. Despite this awareness, the side of technology that allows fake news propagators to sway public sentiment and present itself as legitimate news has become even more powerful, which leads to governments expressing interest in regulating social media platforms.

House Bill 5021 in particular, or the proposed Social Media Regulation Act of 2017, aims for social media accounts to be subjected to utmost identity verification to confirm authenticity.

Trend Micro believes that this year, the improvements social media has made to fight fake news will not be enough to keep up with the deluge of cyberpropaganda. This proves to be alarming as the same survey showed that half of Filipinos who use the internet for social media have changed their views on government and politics based on what they see online.

More cloud-related software vulnerabilities will be discovered

Trend Micro also predicts attackers will leverage on proven technological methods against the growing cloud adoption. According to Cloud Readiness Index 2018, the Philippines is among the countries lagging behind in cloud infrastructure and yet to mature in terms of cloud adoption.

It is generally perceived that transitioning to the cloud makes users more prone to security breaches and attacks. Vulnerabilities found in cloud infrastructure, such as containers, and weak cloud security measures will allow greater exploitation of accounts for cryptocurrency mining, leading to more damaging breaches due to misconfigured systems.

Highly targeted attacks will begin using AI-powered techniques

Attackers will also implement emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) to better anticipate movements of top-level executives. They can use AI to determine when and where corporate executives are expected to be in the future, such as the hotels their companies typically book them in, the restaurants they pick for meetings, and other preferences that can help narrow down their next likely locations.

This will lead to more convincing targeted phishing messages, which can be critical to BEC attacks. Additionally, it is likely that BEC attacks will target more employees who report to C-level executives, resulting in continued global losses.

The threat landscape promises a lot of challenges for almost all sectors of the internet-using public in 2019 even as faster internet, for better or worse, looms on the horizon. But the available tools and technologies should empower users and enterprises into positioning themselves more securely in the fight against cybercriminals and other emerging threat actors. A deep understanding of these issues is a step in the right direction. (Trend Micro)

Logo of Trend Micro courtesy of Wikipedia.

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