A former State Department employee will spend 57 months in prison for a “sextortion” cyberstalking crime that sounds like an SVU sweeps-week plot, only weirder and more awful.
While working in the US Embassy in London, administrative support worker Michael C. Ford passed time on the job by sending phishing emails to thousands of people. Once he tricked people (mostly college-aged women) into giving him their personal information, he’d try to blackmail them into sending him sexually explicit pictures.
According to the DOJ, Ford would pose as “a member of the fictitious ‘account deletion team’ for a well-known e-mail service provider” to trick people into giving up passwords and other sensitive data:
According to the plea document, Ford admitted that between January 2013 and May 2015, while employed by the U.S. Embassy in London, he used various aliases to commit a widespread, international computer hacking, cyberstalking and “sextortion” campaign designed to force victims to provide Ford with personal information as well as sexually explicit videos of others. Ford targeted young females, some of whom were students at U.S. colleges and universities, with a particular focus on members of sororities and aspiring models.
While employed by the US government, Ford tried to force 75 people into sending nudes. He often used a State Department computer to do this from within the Embassy.
His one-man creep scheme lasted over two years, from January 2013 to May 2015.
Ford was a low-level support worker, not a member of the Foreign Service—yet he conducted an international blackmail scheme from within the US Embassy, and it took years to detect and catch him.
Yes, the State Department eventually caught him. But if it can’t catch an unsophisticated hacker running a brazen but obviously extremely dumb scheme using a WORK COMPUTER for over two years, I’m more concerned than ever with its ability to monitor or prevent cybercrime.