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Avoid getting scammed by emails claiming that your device was hacked

Also Known As: possible malware infections
Damage level: Medium

What is "I am sorry to inform you but your device was hacked" email scam?

"I am sorry to inform you but your device was hacked" refers to a sextortion spam campaign. These scam emails claim that the recipient's device was infected and used to make a sexually explicit video of them. The letters demand a ransom to be paid - else the compromising recording will be publicized. It must be stressed that these emails are scams, and all of their information is false.

I am sorry to inform you but your device was hacked email spam campaign

"I am sorry to inform you but your device was hacked" email in detail

The "I am sorry to inform you but your device was hacked" scam emails contain lengthy text telling the story of a fake system infection and how the infiltrated malware was used to obtain compromising content. The letters claim that the sender has been monitoring the recipient for several months.

Allegedly, during this time, recordings were made featuring the recipient while they were visiting adult-themed websites. The emails demand that 1650 USD worth of Bitcoins would be transferred to the provided cryptocurrency wallet - or the nonexistent video will be sent to the recipient's contacts and posted online.

It must be emphasized that these emails are fake and pose no threat to the recipient. In other words, they must be ignored, as the recipient's devices were not infected, nor are any videos of them in the sender's possession.

Threat Summary:
Name I am sorry to inform you but your device was hacked Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Scam emails claim that a compromising video featuring the recipient will be publicized unless a ransom is paid.
Ransom Amount 1650 USD in Bitcoin cryptocurrency
Cyber Criminal Cryptowallet Address 1Bg5s2oasuGyiMPkDu3XGQde85AmHDcR2E (Bitcoin)
Symptoms Unauthorized online purchases, changed online account passwords, identity theft, illegal access of the computer.
Distribution methods Deceptive emails, rogue online pop-up ads, search engine poisoning techniques, misspelled domains.
Damage Loss of sensitive private information, monetary loss, identity theft.
Malware Removal (Windows)

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Spam campaigns in general

"Unfortunately, there are some bad news for you", "This is the last reminder", "Have you heard about Pegasus?", and "I am a professional programmer who specializes in hacking" are a few examples of sextortion spam campaigns.

Emails sent through these campaigns use a variety of scam models and false claims to gain and subsequently abuse recipients' trust. In addition to phishing and various schemes, spam mail is also used to proliferate malware (e.g., ransomware, trojans, cryptocurrency miners, etc.).

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Systems are infected via malicious files attached to and/or linked inside spam mail. These files can be in various formats, e.g., archives, executables, PDF and Microsoft Office documents, JavaScript, etc. When the files are opened - the infection process is initiated.

For example, Microsoft Office documents cause infections by executing malicious macro commands. This occurs when a document is opened in Microsoft Office versions released before 2010.

Automatic macro execution is prevented by the "Protected View" mode in newer versions, so instead, users can manually enable macro commands (i.e., editing/content). Note that virulent documents often contain deceptive messages intended to trick users into enabling macros.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Suspicious and irrelevant emails should not be opened, especially any attachments or links present in them - as they are potential origins of system infections. It is recommended to use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010.

Aside from spam mail, malware is also spread through untrustworthy download channels (e.g., unofficial and freeware sites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, etc.), software "cracking" tools, and fake updates. Hence, it is advised to only download from official/verified sources and activate/update programs with tools provided by genuine developers.

It is crucial to have a dependable anti-virus installed and kept updated. This software has to be used to run regular system scans and to remove threats. If you've already opened malicious attachments, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the "I am sorry to inform you but your device was hacked" scam email letter:

Subject: Do You Do Any of These Embarrassing Things?


I am sorry to inform you but your device was hacked.

 

That's what happened. I have used a Zero Click vulnerability with a special code to hack your device through a website.
A complicated software that requires precise skills that I posess.
This exploit works in a chain with a specially crafted unique code and such type of an attack goes undetected.
You only had to visit a website to be infected, and unfortunately for you it's that simple for me.

 

You were not targeted, but just became one of the many unlucky people who got hacked through that webpage.
All of this happened in August. So I’ve had enough time to collect the information.

 

I think you already know what is going to happen next.
For a couple of month my software was quietly collecting information about your habits, websites you visit, websearches, texts you send.
There is more to it, but I have listed just a few reasons for you to understand how serious this is.

 

To be clear, my software controlled your camera and microphone as well.
It was just about right timing to get you privacy violated. I have made a few pornhub worthy videos with you as a lead actor.

 

I’ve been waiting enough and have decided that it’s time to put an end to this.
Here is my offer. Let’s name this a “consulting fee” I need to get, so I can delete the media content I have been collecting.
Your privacy stays untouched, if I get the payment.
Otherwise, I will leak the most damaging content to your contacts and post it to a public website for perverts to view.

 

You and I understand how damaging this will be to you, it's not that much money to keep your privacy.

 

I don’t care about you personally, that's why you can be sure that all files I have and software on your device will be deleted immediately after I receive the transfer.
I only care about getting paid.

 

My modest consulting fee is 1650 US Dollars to be transferred in Bitcoin. Exchange rate at the time of the transfer.
You need to send that amount to this wallet: 1Bg5s2oasuGyiMPkDu3XGQde85AmHDcR2E

 

The fee is non negotiable, to be transferred within 2 business days.

 

Obviously do not try to ask for help from the law enforcement unless you want your privacy to be violated.
I will monitor your every move until I get paid. If you keep your end of the agreement, you wont hear from me ever again.

 

Take care and have a good day.

Appearance of the "I am sorry to inform you but your device was hacked" scam email (GIF):

I am sorry to inform you but your device was hacked scam email appearance (GIF)

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How to remove malware manually?

Manual malware removal is a complicated task - usually it is best to allow antivirus or anti-malware programs to do this automatically. To remove this malware we recommend using Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows.

If you wish to remove malware manually, the first step is to identify the name of the malware that you are trying to remove. Here is an example of a suspicious program running on a user's computer:

Malware process running in the Task Manager

If you checked the list of programs running on your computer, for example, using task manager, and identified a program that looks suspicious, you should continue with these steps:

manual malware removal step 1Download a program called Autoruns. This program shows auto-start applications, Registry, and file system locations:

Autoruns application appearance

manual malware removal step 2Restart your computer into Safe Mode:

Windows XP and Windows 7 users: Start your computer in Safe Mode. Click Start, click Shut Down, click Restart, click OK. During your computer start process, press the F8 key on your keyboard multiple times until you see the Windows Advanced Option menu, and then select Safe Mode with Networking from the list.

Run Windows 7 or Windows XP in Safe Mode with Networking

Video showing how to start Windows 7 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Windows 8 users: Start Windows 8 is Safe Mode with Networking - Go to Windows 8 Start Screen, type Advanced, in the search results select Settings. Click Advanced startup options, in the opened "General PC Settings" window, select Advanced startup.

Click the "Restart now" button. Your computer will now restart into the "Advanced Startup options menu". Click the "Troubleshoot" button, and then click the "Advanced options" button. In the advanced option screen, click "Startup settings".

Click the "Restart" button. Your PC will restart into the Startup Settings screen. Press F5 to boot in Safe Mode with Networking.

Run Windows 8 in Safe Mode with Networking

Video showing how to start Windows 8 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Windows 10 users: Click the Windows logo and select the Power icon. In the opened menu click "Restart" while holding "Shift" button on your keyboard. In the "choose an option" window click on the "Troubleshoot", next select "Advanced options".

In the advanced options menu select "Startup Settings" and click on the "Restart" button. In the following window you should click the "F5" button on your keyboard. This will restart your operating system in safe mode with networking.

Run Windows 10 in Safe Mode with Networking

Video showing how to start Windows 10 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

manual malware removal step 3Extract the downloaded archive and run the Autoruns.exe file.

Extract Autoruns.zip archive and run Autoruns.exe application

manual malware removal step 4In the Autoruns application, click "Options" at the top and uncheck "Hide Empty Locations" and "Hide Windows Entries" options. After this procedure, click the "Refresh" icon.

Refresh Autoruns application results

manual malware removal step 5Check the list provided by the Autoruns application and locate the malware file that you want to eliminate.

You should write down its full path and name. Note that some malware hides process names under legitimate Windows process names. At this stage, it is very important to avoid removing system files. After you locate the suspicious program you wish to remove, right click your mouse over its name and choose "Delete".

Delete malware in Autoruns

After removing the malware through the Autoruns application (this ensures that the malware will not run automatically on the next system startup), you should search for the malware name on your computer. Be sure to enable hidden files and folders before proceeding. If you find the filename of the malware, be sure to remove it.

Search for malware and delete it

Reboot your computer in normal mode. Following these steps should remove any malware from your computer. Note that manual threat removal requires advanced computer skills. If you do not have these skills, leave malware removal to antivirus and anti-malware programs.

These steps might not work with advanced malware infections. As always it is best to prevent infection than try to remove malware later. To keep your computer safe, install the latest operating system updates and use antivirus software. To be sure your computer is free of malware infections, we recommend scanning it with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why did I receive this email?

Spam emails are not personal; they are sent by the thousand with the hope of tricking at least some of the recipients.

Was my computer actually hacked and does the sender have any information?

No, all of the claims made by the "I am sorry to inform you but your device was hacked" scam email - are false. Therefore, neither is your device infected nor do the scammers have any videos featuring you.

How did cyber criminals get my email password?

If you've received spam emails from your own email account - this could have occurred due to a data breach. Otherwise, you might have fallen victim to a phishing scam at some point. Schemes of this type aim to trick users into providing their account credentials or other sensitive information into phishing websites or files, which wear various disguises to lure victims into trusting them.

I have sent cryptocurrency to the address presented in this email, can I get my money back?

Cryptocurrency transactions are practically untraceable; hence, you will not be able to reverse them.

I have provided my personal information when tricked by a spam email, what should I do?

If you've disclosed account credentials - immediately change the passwords of all potentially compromised accounts and contact their official support. If the information was of a different personal nature (e.g., ID card details, credit card numbers, etc.) - you should contact the relevant authorities without delay.

I have read a spam email but didn't open the attachment, is my computer infected?

No, opening a spam email will not trigger a system infection. However, the links and attachments found in these emails - can be malicious and initiate malware download/installation upon opening.

I have downloaded and opened a file attached to a spam email, is my computer infected?

Whether your system is infected depends on the file's format. If it was an executable - then, most likely, yes. However, you may have avoided an infection if the attachment was a document (e.g., .pdf, .doc, etc.) - since such files may require additional actions to jumpstart malware download/installation.

Will Combo Cleaner remove malware infections present in email attachments?

Yes, Combo Cleaner can detect and eliminate almost all known malware infections. Running a full system infection is paramount, as sophisticated malicious programs typically hide deep within the system.

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About the author:

Tomas Meskauskas

Tomas Meskauskas - expert security researcher, professional malware analyst.

I am passionate about computer security and technology. I have an experience of over 10 years working in various companies related to computer technical issue solving and Internet security. I have been working as an author and editor for pcrisk.com since 2010. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay informed about the latest online security threats. Contact Tomas Meskauskas.

PCrisk security portal is brought by a company RCS LT. Joined forces of security researchers help educate computer users about the latest online security threats. More information about the company RCS LT.

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Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

Increased attack rate of infections detected within the last 24 hours.

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