Sextortion Investigations

On August 14, 2013, the FBI confirmed its investigation regarding a sextortion case involving several women, including the recently-crowned Miss Teen USA, Cassidy Wolf. While the FBI did not release any information regarding the investigation or potential suspects, they did say the investigation has been going on for several months. Do you store personal information and photographs on your computer? Do you or your children use computers with webcam capabilities? If so, you might be at risk for cyber-stalking and sextortion. At the Law Offices of Salar Atrizadeh, an attorney with experience and knowledge in the most recent cyberspace law can help you learn how to protect yourself against cyber attacks such as these.

What Is the Extent of the Sextortion Threat In the Community?

Cassidy Wolf had said in an interview that she had received an email from an anonymous source who claimed to have nude pictures of her. The anonymous source then attempted to extort her, threatening to make the pictures public otherwise. Apparently, a hacker was able to break into Cassidy Wolf’s computer, turn on her webcam, and take pictures of her. For Miss Wolf, this controversy came after the hacker cyber-stalked her through her computer.

This is a sextortion case, among many similar cases, where individuals used computers, email accounts, and social media to gather private and compromising information from users. For instance, in 2012, Christopher Chaney pled guilty in a Los Angeles federal court to nine counts of computer hacking and wiretapping. Between 2010 and 2011, Chaney unlawfully accessed fifty email accounts belonging to members of the entertainment industry to gather photos and information of the celebrities. Chaney then took steps to make the photos and emails public. He admitted that using the “Forgot Your Password” feature, Chaney was able to change these celebrities’ accounts by correctly guessing the answers to security questions using information available over the Internet.

What Legal Remedies Are Available to Protect Against Sextortion?

Under California Penal Code section 518, using force or threats to compel another person to hand over money or other valuable property constitutes criminal extortion. California extortion laws include a wide range of behavior. For instance, breaking into a home and using force or threats to compel the occupants to locate and hand over their expensive jewelry also constitutes extortion. The act does not need to be a part of a conspiracy, but rather can exist in the instance of a robbery. Pursuant to federal extortion laws, which are codified under 18 U.S.C. ยงยง 871-880, it is specifically a crime to transmit threatening communication across state lines with the intent of extorting money or other property. Using remote access, hackers have the capacity to break into computers to watch the victims and gather information and pictures. Indeed, these hackers can gather information already on the computer and use webcams to take compromising pictures. Of course, in these instances it becomes difficult to find and prosecute the hackers because they operate from a distance, and are often skilled in covering up their cyber-tracks.

At the Law Offices of Salar Atrizadeh, we guide our clients in legal matters regarding all aspects of cyberspace law by using extensive knowledge and skills to provide solutions to protect your rights. Please contact us today to set up a confidential consultation.