With the economic downturn still lingering, blackmail is becoming increasingly popular with the 21st century criminal. Most at risk are celebrities and high net worth individuals who offer an attractive ROI for criminals; the frequent lack of internal controls and protective measures taken by this population coupled with their notable profitability makes the prospect of blackmail very appealing. Many thoughtlessly ‘leave the door open’ for unauthorised parties to gain access to negative material, whether it’s images, videos, recorded conversations or personal secrets. The perpetrators then threaten to publicise this information unless specific financial demands are met.
A case in the press recently saw a chauffeur attempt to blackmail the Qatari royal family for £600,000 by threatening to sell private images that were left in a car during a visit to London in 2013. Although he has now been arrested, this incident reminds us that the high net worth community really are center stage in the threat arena.
It goes without saying that the rise in digital technologies has increased the ways in which personal information can be intercepted by criminals. Photos, videos, e-mails and private conversations stored digitally are at risk from third parties who can access them remotely with relative ease. Sophisticated cyber-criminals are constantly on the lookout for personal material that can be held from the victim with the demand for ransom, and many celebrities have fallen victim to these crimes. Most recently TV star Kris Jenner fell victim to cyber blackmail when an intruder hacked into her iCloud and gained access to security cameras within the home. The hacker was able to gain private footage of Jenner changing in her bedroom and threatened to release the film unless a ransom was paid.
As with all security threats, it’s important to implement pre-crisis planning into the overall security plan. Basic precautions include:
Conducting periodic background checks on key advisers and household employees, because they and their associates are often the perpetrators of such crimes.
Protecting digitally stored information with two-step authentication, complex passwords and encryption.
Considering all information as public. If you the information wouldn’t be shown in public, it shouldn’t be carelessly stored or shared.
- Being cautious of who knows what, and only sharing information with third parties on a need to know basis.
Too many victims adopt the “it won’t happen to me” approach and fail to act rationally when a crisis occurs. It’s important for these individuals to consider their vulnerability and to then begin to understand the steps that need to be taken to manage the situation.