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U.K. teen who blackmailed porn users finally gets jail time

U.K. teen who blackmailed porn users finally gets jail time
[Photo: Matthew Ansley/Unsplash]

When he was just 17 years old, Zain Qaiser made around £700,000 in just over 18 months with an unlikely part-time job: He used ransomware to blackmail people into paying up. He may be the U.K.’s most prolific cybercriminal, and he has just been jailed.

Qaiser holed himself up in his bedroom at his parents’ house in London and enacted a nefarious scheme to extract money from strangers. According to the BBC, he embarked on his life of crime by booking advertising space on some of the world’s most popular legal porn sites. However, he wasn’t promoting any products, but using the fake ads to lure people into clicking on them, which would trigger the download of a malicious program called “the Angler.” If the user’s computer did not have the right antivirus software, the Angler would launch a ransomware attack that seized control of the machine.

The program would then fill the user’s computer with a fake FBI or law enforcement warning that accused the user of breaking the law and claiming that they faced up to three years in jail, unless they immediately forked over a “fine” of $200 or £100. Many, many people fell victim to the scheme and paid up, thereby helping Qaiser earn at least £700,000.

Qaiser’s bedroom-based criminal empire didn’t stop there. According to the BBC, the teen also teamed up with a Russian hacker, splitting the profits in their global blackmail operation. It is believed they raked in more than £4m from users who were caught in their trap and ponied up to avoid the shame of being busted on a porn site.

Qaiser was first arrested almost five years ago, but the case was delayed as investigators dug into the complicated layers of the case and analyzed him for mental health issues. Now, he has been sentenced to six years and five months in jail, with the presiding judge noting that Qaiser’s crimes were “extensive–so extensive that there does not appear to be a reported case involving anything comparable.”

Kids these days, right?

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