A former employee of the US State Department was sentenced to 57 months in prison Monday for a phishing, hacking, cyberstalking, and "sextortion" scheme that affected hundreds of victims across several countries.
Michael C. Ford, 36, of Atlanta, pleaded guilty to nine counts of cyberstalking, seven counts of computer hacking to extort, and one count of wire fraud.
While an employee of the US Embassy in London, Ford sent thousands of phishing messages purporting to be from an email provider's "account deletion" team, requesting that targets send him their passwords or have their accounts deleted. Using the passwords he obtained through phishing, he accessed the email and social media accounts of 200 victims -- young females, "with a particular focus on members of sororities and aspiring models," according to the Department of Justice. From those accounts he gathered explicit photographs as well as personally identifiable information on the victims.
Ford then emailed at least 75 of these victims threatening to release those photos -- to their families, escort websites, etc. -- if they did not obtain photos and videos of other young women, and send those to him as well. He followed through on threats on several occasions.
See more in the Department of Justice release.