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Later in the day, to underscore his seriousness, the hacker followed up with another email threatening the victim: “You have six hours.” This victim knew her correspondent only as [email protected], but the attacker turned out to be a talented 32-year-old proficient in multiple computer languages.

Located in Santa Ana, California, his name was Luis Mijangos.

We searched dockets and news stories for criminal cases in which one person used a computer network to extort another into producing pornography or engaging in sexual activity.

We found nearly 80 such cases involving, by conservative estimates, more than 3,000 victims. Prosecutors colloquially call this sort of crime “sextortion.” And while not all cases are as sophisticated as this one, a great many sextortion cases have taken place―in federal courts, in state courts, and internationally―over a relatively short span of time.

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.

More often, it involves manipulation and trickery on social media.

As the teenage child of one of the present authors put the matter, “You just can’t put a portable porn studio in the hands of every teenager in the country and not expect bad things to happen.” This paper represents an effort―to our knowledge the first―to study in depth and across jurisdictions the problems of sextortion.

The malicious software he employed provided access to all files, photos, and videos on the infected computers.

And if they did, he would then threaten them further, notifying them that he knew they had told someone.

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.

The average teenage or young-adult Internet user, however, is the very softest of cybersecurity targets.

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