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Teenagers exploited for ransom by online ransoms



More than a thousand teenagers were taken to ransom centres around the world in a span of four years, and the latest ransom was a lucrative one for the perpetrators.

The teens, most of them under the age of 18, were taken hostage by hackers posing as US military personnel, according to security firm Trend Micro.

The FBI, the National Security Agency (NSA), the UK’s Home Office and the FBI’s Cyber Crime Unit are among the agencies that have been tracking the cyber-stealing.

Trend Micro said it had identified more than 1,000 sites across six countries where the attackers exploited the teens.

It said the cyberstalkers took advantage of a “broken” US government policy that allows teenagers to access their parents’ social media accounts, which allow them to access personal data, including credit card details, in exchange for a fee.

The site also took advantage to collect personal information about the teenagers, including their names, email addresses and passwords.

TrendMicro said the teens were taken into virtual captivity in three countries – Malaysia, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

They were locked inside the virtual rooms of the centres for three days.

The ransom demanded from the hackers included payment for the return of the hostages, with some being offered up to $25,000 each, and a promise of protection from the internet for a year.

Malaysian authorities are investigating the cases.

The US government has said it will provide any help it can.

“The demand was extremely high and included the ransom of US military members, US citizens and US residents, which would include the families of US service members,” said John Miller, the FBI cyber security lead.

“Our investigations are ongoing.”

Trend Micro has not said what kind of services were used to collect the personal data.

Trend is not the only cyber-criminal organisation to target US teens, with similar incidents reported in the past.

In 2013, the UK-based cyber security firm Gamma Group said it identified more, and more victims were being used in the cybercrime.

A year earlier, the firm said it was targeting more than 400 US teenagers.

Last year, the US government warned its children to be careful about online dating sites, saying they could be used to exploit vulnerable teens.US teenagers are targeted for cyberstalking, cyberstealing and extortion.

In one of the cases in the UK, the victims of a group of cyberstalker and extortionists were lured to the UK by online ads offering “free accommodation”, a security researcher told The Independent newspaper in 2013.

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