As it happens, I’ve never visited a porn site on the internet. I understand this makes me a moocher, because porn is the profit engine that built the worldwide web and I have been enjoying the free parts without chipping in my fair share. I am deeply sorry for letting the internet down and, most likely, forcing others to pick up the rest of the tab.
On the plus side, my lack of engagement in the world of online sex gives me a different perspective when certain emails pop up. No, I’m not referring to the emails from goddesses in faraway lands who want nothing more than to send me their photos and, um, watch Netflix with me.
Rather, it’s the notes that offer me my own career as a porn star by sharing my intimate online moments with an adoring and appreciative audience of friends, family and strangers alike. I get a few notes every week and they all read about the same: “Your password is __________. I hacked the website you were watching for porn and I recorded a really embarrassing selfie. Either you pay up or I will post the video for all to see.”
When I opened the first of these emails, the password looked like one I might have used several years ago, but it isn’t close to anything on my current list. I can only assume my friendly neighborhood sextortionists bought or stole some old login information from one of the many sites that insist I create a “secure” account in order to do business with them. Of course, they also insist they will protect my information with the greatest security system in the universe, although I get a steady stream of emails that give lie to that claim.
I do feel great sympathy for all the people who are scrambling to come up with the Bitcoin to pay off their new friends. Like the hospitals that must pay off hackers to unlock their critical patient data, victims of sextortion must rely on dishonorable people to behave honorably after the payment is made.
Good luck on that one.
Of course, it’s possible that all these emails are based on no hacks at all, but include enough info that they’ll apply to some percentage of the recipients on the list. If a bot sends out 2 million emails that indicate a password and a porn site, they’re bound to make a match with a few hundred recipients. It’s a very wide net, but at $1,500 or so per payoff, that’s a profitable venture.
And it’s important to recognize that the extortionists are fulfilling the core profit model of the internet, in which companies collect as much information as possible about their customers and then sell that information to other businesses. Nobody needs to pay Google for search because Google sells the searchers to its paying clients. Ditto for Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and pretty much everyone outside of this blog. The services are free because you are the product.
Of course, paying for silence is not exactly the same as paying for titillation, but it’s one of the many ways the internet has transformed its users into the product being bought and sold. We can’t help but wonder how much better, saner, more civil and more efficient the internet would be today if everyone was paying their own freight. It’s probably too late now, but it might have been so much better.
In the meantime, caveat emptor. Viewers, too.
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Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.