A sextortion phishing campaign is targeting French speakers accusing them of viewing child abuse content, according to Paul Ducklin at Naked Security. The emails purport to come from the French police, and are designed to frighten users into replying to the email to assert their innocence. After a user replies, the scammer will attempt to convince them to pay a bogus fine to have the matter dropped.

Ducklin offers the following advice to help people avoid falling for these scams.

  • “How likely does the message really seem? The sender of this email was given as Jean-Luc Godard, who in real life is a world-famous left-wing French filmmaker now in his 90s. The investigating officer you are told to email directly is Frédéric Veaux, the Director General of the French Police. If you were being charged, you would have to be formally accused by name, not simply sent an email starting simply Monsieur/Madame. (Interestingly, the subject line said Mr/Mme, mixing up English and French in an obvious mistake.)
  • “If in doubt, don’t give it out. If this were a genuine criminal investigation, you would not be invited to submit evidence in mitigation informally via email. That would be insecure both for you and the police, and would almost certainly be useless in court anyway.
  • “Don’t be afraid to check with a trusted source. If this email were genuine, and there really were police charges against you, then emailing back information of your own to defend yourself against as-yet unspecified, unknown claims against you would be a very bad idea. The police themselves would not ask you to do that, which makes it obvious that this email doesn’t come from the police in the first place.”

It’s not just France, either. We’ve seen an email from the Grand Ducal Police of Luxembourg, also in French, and better French than one usually sees. No one was named in the letter beyond “Madame/Monsieur,” but at least the hoods got rid of that “Mr.” Needless to say, it’s still not very plausible. Next time they may try Andorra, or Monaco, or the Sûreté du Québec.

New-school security awareness training can teach your employees to follow security best practices so they can thwart phishing attacks.