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The malware Mijangos wrote was sophisticated, and he told federal authorities that he designed it specifically to be undetectable to antivirus programs.
He then, according to court documents, “used [those] intimate images or videos of female victims he stole or captured to ‘sextort’ those victims, threatening to post those images or videos on the Internet unless the victims provided more.” Mijangos’s threats were not idle.
In it, we look at the methods used by perpetrators and the prosecutorial tools authorities have used to bring offenders to justice.
We hope that by highlighting the scale and scope of the problem, and the brutality of these cases for the many victims they affect, to spur a close look at both state and federal laws under which these cases get prosecuted.
We tend think of cybersecurity as a problem for governments, major corporations, and—at an individual level—for people with credit card numbers or identities to steal.
We begin with a literature review of the limited existing scholarship and data on sextortion.
Teenagers and young adults don’t use strong passwords or two-step verification, as a general rule. They sometimes record pornographic or semi-pornographic images or videos of themselves.
And they share material with other teenagers whose cyberdefense practices are even laxer than their own.
Sextortion thus turns out to be quite easy to accomplish in a target-rich environment that often does not require more than malicious guile.
It is a great mistake, however, to confuse sextortion with consensual sexting or other online teenage flirtations. It is also a crime that, as we shall show, does not currently exist in either federal law or the laws of the states.