Canada: Attempted sextortion leads to call for stricter phone porting rules - - PressFrom - Canada
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Canada Attempted sextortion leads to call for stricter phone porting rules

11:35  10 november  2019
11:35  10 november  2019 Source:   cbc.ca

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Porting rules . In Canada, the CRTC established wireless number portability in 2007, streamlining the process to keep the same number when switching Baran-Chong is demanding stricter regulations to prevent scammers from porting other customers' phone numbers and using it to steal data.

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a person posing for the camera: Randall Baran-Chong said he felt violated when a scammer stole his mobile number and gained access to his personal computer files. © Provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Randall Baran-Chong said he felt violated when a scammer stole his mobile number and gained access to his personal computer files. When Randall Baran-Chong received a notification on his smartphone late one night last week indicating the device was no longer in service, it was the first sign of trouble.

Around 3:30 a.m., emails started appearing in his inbox, warning him of changes made to his Microsoft account. His password had been reset and his email address removed as a verification method.

"I knew things were about to go badly," he said.

In the hours that followed, the 33-year-old Toronto businessman says someone locked down his laptop, purchased an Xbox video game gift card using Baran-Chong's credit card, accessed his personal files and threatened him with extortion — all because someone was able to steal his cellphone number.

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Prosecutors colloquially call it “ sextortion .”. Legally speaking, there’s no such thing. The word is a kind a prosecutorial slang for a class of cases that do not correspond neatly with any known criminal offense. But sextortion turns out to be remarkably common.

Sextortion also refers to a form of blackmail in which sexual information or images are used to extort Since early 2009, The Institute for Responsible Online and Cell- Phone Communication (iroc2.org) ' Sextortion ,' researched by Mary Hallward Driemeier, Lead Economist for Financial and Private

It had been fraudulently "ported" — transferred from his Rogers account to a Bell prepaid customer. The fraudster then seems to have used a password retrieval process involving text message verification to gain access to Baran-Chong's Microsoft account, tied to his computer's operating system and a cloud-based file backup service.

Sextortion threat

In another message, the fraudster threatened to take the attack a step further: send two bitcoins (about $25,000 at the time) "or I'm dropping your sex tapes to all of your coworkers, investors and relatives."

Baran-Chong had several years' worth of photos and videos saved in his cloud account. Among them were clips of him engaging in sex acts with women. (He says the sex was consensual and the women involved have been told of the breach.)

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Sextortion is a terrifying cybercrime that's on the rise. Find out more about sextortion , including These can lead to fake websites that prompt you to enter credentials that can then be used to hack Call local police to reports these crimes, or if you are a minor who doesn’t feel comfortable calling the

Sextortion to me would be someone who is forced against their will to perform sexual acts? Or blackmailing them for sexual favors? Special Agent: Sextortion is a serious crime that occurs when someone threatens to distribute your private and sensitive material if you don’t provide them images

"I cried at 3:30 in the morning," he said, "because I was like 'why is this happening to me?'"

Baran-Chong rushed to contact his mobile carrier, but was only able to regain his number the following day. By then, it had become clear to him the fraudster had looked through his files — and thoroughly.

He received another threatening message, with images attached this time: a scan of his passport — which he had saved when applying for a travel visa — and screen captures of the intimate videos the fraudster was threatening to release.

"It's a violation," Baran-Chong told CBC in his Toronto home. "I see it the same way as being held hostage in the middle of Yonge-Dundas Square with a gun to my head."

How the scheme works

Canadian police have warned the public about phone porting fraud before. Similar schemes were apparently used to tweet offensive, unauthorized messages from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's account and to publish naked photos of pop star Justin Bieber on the Instagram page of his ex-girlfriend, fellow performer Selena Gomez.

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These sextortion scammers are using nearly 800 different Bitcoin wallets to make it harder for investigators to ultimately track them down. A more recent round of sextortion emails use the same threat and scary language but do NOT include a stolen password as leverage.

" Sextortion " is extortion in which sex or sexual images is the currency of the bribe, rather than money. Today the crime has become digital and cyber- sextortion is This report calls for specific recognition of sextortion in U.S. federal and state laws and for increasing public awareness of the problem and

a hand holding a cell phone: Randall Baran-Chong shows an email he received from Microsoft, warning him that his laptop had been locked remotely. © Provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Randall Baran-Chong shows an email he received from Microsoft, warning him that his laptop had been locked remotely.

Baran-Chong's ordeal, though, highlights how lesser-known users can fall victim and see their password-protected profiles unlocked with just a mobile number.

"The proper mechanisms have not been put in place to protect consumers and everyday people," said Ritesh Kotak, a Toronto-based cybersecurity expert.

The premise is simple: a scammer identifies a victim's cellphone number and provider, then tricks the company into porting the number to the fraudster's device. 

Many online services allow users to reset their password using a two-step process involving a code sent by text message to a registered number. With this scheme, the code is intercepted and the password is changed, opening the door for criminals to steal personal data.

Until the carriers "fix" porting, there remains "a gap that's going to be exploited by hackers for nefarious reasons," Kotak warned.

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So- called sextortion scams claim they have information on your porn watching habits, which they'll make public unless you pay in Bitcoin. The email addresses you by name and knows one of your online passwords – and even may include the last three digits of your phone number.

Porting rules

In Canada, the CRTC established wireless number portability in 2007, streamlining the process to keep the same number when switching carriers. All service providers must follow the same guidelines, which are administered by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA), an industry body.

In Baran-Chong's case, "the fraudster had all of the required information to port the telephone number and the automated system processed the number transfer in compliance with the CWTA rules," Bell spokesperson Nathan Gibson told CBC.

According to details posted on the CWTA's website, a user can request to have a mobile number ported to another device with as little information as the number itself and the customer's account number. CBC's Marketplace revealed earlier this year that such details can sometimes be obtained by conning a customer service representative.

Carriers update guidelines when "fraudsters find a way to cheat the system," Robert Ghiz, the CWTA's president and CEO, said in an interview. "Once you find a way to prevent them from going about it one way, then they try to find another way, so also it's up to us to continuously evolve."

As for Baran-Chong, it wasn't even the first time he was targeted. He said his number was briefly stolen in June, but that no other data had been accessed then.

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With sextortion on the rise, we review the latest research, highlight the experience of victims, and discuss what we can be done to prevent it. The researchers state that sextortion involves threats to expose a sexual image in order to make a person do something or for other reasons, such as revenge

He also attempted to meet some in person and stalked at least one, prosecutors said. Even though he doesn’t face charges for the earlier activity, prosecutors argue the judge should consider it when sentencing him, in part because it led seamlessly to the later activity.

WATCH | Randall Baran-Chong says he felt violated after his cellphone number was stolen:

He said he added a four-digit PIN to his Rogers account after the first attack, but that the carrier didn't provide any additional protection to prevent his number from being fraudulently ported again. The second time, he said Rogers offered to contact him in the event someone tried to transfer his number in the future.

"I said 'of course, that should be the norm. All of us should have that protection.'"

Rogers only offers the added security measure to victims of unauthorized porting or fraud.

Rogers apologizes

The company offered an apology for Baran-Chong's "experience" in an email to CBC.

"We take protecting our customers' personal information very seriously, and as fraudsters evolve their tactics, we work with other carriers to continually strengthen processes to prevent unauthorized porting," Rogers spokesperson Sarah Schmidt said.

Jack Dorsey standing in front of a window: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey suffered an apparent SIM hijacking attack in August, allowing a user to pose as Dorsey and tweet offensive messages. © Provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey suffered an apparent SIM hijacking attack in August, allowing a user to pose as Dorsey and tweet offensive messages.

Rogers is rolling out a text message notification measure if there's a request to port a customer's number, but as it stands, Canadian cellphone users have limited options for safeguarding their number.

Meanwhile, Bell is considering a customer notification service "to further strengthen the porting process, while keeping the system as seamless as possible for customers," Gibson said.

Baran-Chong suspects his attack was targeted — and carried out by a former acquaintance — but said "every single Canadian with a cellphone is at risk."

The CRTC says it has received three complaints related to phone porting since the start of this year.

'It's going to hang over my head'

Baran-Chong is demanding stricter regulations to prevent scammers from porting other customers' phone numbers and using it to steal data.

"There's not enough protection for our digital selves," he said.

He reported the incident to police, who are treating it as a case of attempted extortion. Toronto police confirmed to CBC that the force is investigating, but that the probe is only "in its infancy."

Baran-Chong said he hasn't paid the ransom to prevent his intimate videos from being released. They haven't been sent to anyone he knows. But he fears they will be, one day.

"The problem is I live under the sword of Damocles, in a way," he said. "It's going to hang over my head for the rest of my life."

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