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Two computer geniuses suspected of scams


Jean-Pierre Castaldi has experienced a more enjoyable return to vacation. At the end of August, back in Paris, he has to go through his many unread emails. The task, often tedious, turns out to be scary this time.

“I receive an email, remembers the actor, in which the guy writes to me, it's pretty self explanatory: “I got into your computer, you did this, you did that”- which I didn’t do, by the way. And he adds: “Send me 550 euros or I'll hack your thing.” ” The author of the anonymous message claims to have in his possession compromising images, linked to the consultation of pornographic sites, which he threatens to share. He attaches a link to a bitcoin wallet, the most famous of the cryptocurrencies, in order to make the transfer, a “Fair price for our little secret”.

Jean-Pierre Castaldi is also afraid that the blackmailer will empty the accounts of his company. The actor first goes to the police station the same day. Then, in the process, at the Hôtel des Invalides, at the General Secretariat for Defense and National Security. Jérôme Notin, director general of Acyma, a government aid scheme for victims of cyberbullying, created in 2017, reassures him.

Read also Cybercrime, a daily threat that the state is struggling to measure

Mr. Castaldi was not the first to have had cold sweats when he opened his electronic box. From summer 2018, first reports – ” at the margin “, says Jérôme Notin – come from French people who claim to have received strange e-mails. A missive from their own email address, as if they had sent it to themselves. Each time, the author threatens them to publish compromising images resulting from an alleged hacking of their computer. A bluff in the overwhelming majority of cases. In order to convince the recipient to pay sums usually ranging from 250 to 750 euros, technical elements, such as user IDs or passwords, are sometimes attached.

28,000 messages from concerned Internet users

During the last weekend of January, these e-mail sendings take on an unprecedented scale: several million in less than two days. The operation was so massive that, on January 31, Acyma publicly warned against this scam. But the waves of emails continue. Tens of thousands of French people receive them, with texts that vary little. MPs, magistrates, police, members of ministries: no one was spared. Some ignore them, others are alarmed.

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