Scam Dissection

Scam E-Mail

“Caution! Attack hackers to your account!”

What, exactly, am I being instructed to do here? Attack the “hackers” who are allegedly accessing my account? Oh, are you trying to warn me of something?

Scam e-mails nothing new, and despite lacking professionalism, there are innocent victims falling for them every day. The most important thing we can do is raise awareness of the problem, while having some fun in the process. It’s dissection time!

Scam E-Mail
Caution! The original scam e-mail as viewed in Microsoft Outlook.

“Hi, stranger!”

As we progress through the e-mail, you may begin to wonder why I am being referred to as a “stranger” here. I was under the impression that they would have known everything about me, but sadly, they did not take the time to learn my name. This is the first red flag.

“I hacked your device, because I sent you this message from your account.”

While it does look like the e-mail was received by the same account which sent it, this is not the case and is commonly referred to as ‘spoofing’. If we observe the headers, we can obtain some information about the origin server. Headers may be accessed in Microsoft Outlook by opening the e-mail in a new window, navigating to ‘File’ and then ‘Properties’.

“If you have already changed your password, my malware will be intercepts it every time.”

If in doubt, run a scan for malware on your device; however, if you have received this e-mail, it is highly unlikely that there is any related malware present.

“You may not know me, and you are most likely wondering why you are receiving this email, right?”

Scam e-mails spread like wildfire and e-mail addresses can be obtained through a variety of methods. This may be the result of a hijacked contact or even a database leak.

“In fact, I posted a malicious program on adults (pornography) of some websites, and you know that you visited these websites to enjoy (you know what I mean).”

I swear… I haven’t visited these websites for a long time (disclaimer: unspecified length of time). You must believe me!

“While you were watching video clips,
my trojan started working as a RDP (remote desktop) with a keylogger that gave me access to your screen as well as a webcam.”

The light next to your webcam to indicate it is operating is your friend, not your foe, so the next time you are watching “video clips”, keep an eye out for this.

“Immediately after this, my program gathered all your contacts from messenger, social networks, and also by e-mail.”

A hijacked contact could easily be the reason you are receiving e-mails such as this one. It is important that you take steps to avoid ending up in the same boat.

“What I’ve done?”

I’ll face myself to cross out what I’ve become!

“I made a double screen video.
The first part shows the video you watched (you have good taste, yes … but strange for me and other normal people), and the second part shows the recording of your webcam.”

I don’t really need somebody to tell me I have good taste. Back to the Future is the best movie ever produced. I am sorry that is strange to all the other normal people, and especially you, though.

“What should you do?”

I couldn’t think of anything witty in response to this, so I searched the internet. Apparently, this is the title of an American reality show. I wonder if it was worth watching.

“Well, I think $622 (USD dollars) is a fair price for our little secret.”

I really wish this was our little secret, but I was disappointed to hear that a friend received the same e-mail. I would like an explanation as to why you are changing me $3 more, beyond the obvious favouritism.

“You will make a bitcoin payment (if you don’t know, look for “how to buy bitcoins” on Google).”

The scammer now believes they are a fortune teller. In addition to a Creative Writing lesson, may I suggest Psychic Studies to increase the accuracy of your claim?

“BTC Address: 1PH5CYMeD4ZLTZ2ZYnGLFmQRjnptyLNqcf
(This is CASE sensitive, please copy and paste it)”

At the time of writing, this address has been submitted to the Bitcoin Abuse Database 93 times. My friend received a different address, so be careful.

You have 2 days (48 hours) to pay. (I have a special code, and at the moment I know that you have read this email).”

Personally, I would prefer a Read Receipt in favour of a ‘special code’.

“If I don’t get bitcoins, I will send your video to all your contacts, including family members, colleagues, etc.”

The shame! The embarrassment! The cheek of even thinking I would fall for this!

“However, if I am paid, I will immediately destroy the video, and my trojan will be destruct someself.”

This is where I burst into laughter. You can just imagine Voltorb using the move ‘Destruct Someself’, can’t you?

“If you want to get proof, answer “Yes!” and resend this letter to youself.
And I will definitely send your video to your any 18 contacts.”

In addition to the scammer not knowing how many contacts are linked to an account, this is not something a regular user would pay attention to either. If it is not extreme, offering statistics could make an e-mail look legitimate.

“This is a non-negotiable offer, so please do not waste my personal and other people’s time by replying to this email.”

I would still like to know why my friend gets to pay $3 less. Let’s negotiate.


Bye, stranger!

Don’t let yourself become a victim of this scam. If you receive an e-mail which looks like this, delete it immediately.

The Evolution of DLC

There are 26 letters in the English alphabet, but here the focus is on three: DLC. What does this initialism stand for? Traditionally, it was ‘Downloadable Content’; however, product placement has led to some publishers such as Capcom to refer to it as ‘Disc Locked Content’. This interpretation relates to the physical media we use right now, but it does not really make sense for other media such as cartridges or full software which has already been digitally downloaded. Either way, ‘DLC’ is a modern initialism for an enhancement to a video game; whether it is a large expansion pack or minor addon. These enhancements may be available for free or at a premium and delivered in a variety of ways.

Many years before digital distribution for video games became mainstream, expansion packs were delivered on physical media. A notable example from my childhood would be Sonic & Knuckles – the only SEGA Genesis / Mega Drive title to utilise the ‘revolutionary’ Lock-On Technology for the system – forming one of my most favourite video games of all time: Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles. This would constitute the large expansion pack element of the concept. We were also treated to an additional playable character in another title with Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – giving us our minor addon. The fun didn’t stop there, though: insert any other cartridge into the lock-on slot and those who wanted to play more than fourteen Blue Sphere stages were made happy too with bonus content!

With the magical ‘90s left behind, technology began to radically evolve. Despite requiring assistance from a peripheral called the PlayStation®2 Expansion Bay, it was possible to access additional content in a limited number of titles such as SOCOM 2 U.S. Navy Seals by installing from physical media. Additional content was also available to download for certain titles available on the sixth generation of consoles, where the technology progressed further when Microsoft included a substantial amount of internal storage for the time (8GB or 10GB) and network support as standard with the original Xbox system. The concept continued to evolve throughout the seventh generation with Microsoft, Sony and Valve really pushing things forward with their online distribution platforms. As the 21st Century progressed, other publishers including Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and – more recently – Epic Games wanted a slice of the pie.

Additional content is still made available on physical media, but the distribution methods have changed. The ‘Game of the Year Edition’ concept is popular, often offering all additional content released for the title in the past. This is usually beneficial for new consumers; however, sometimes there can be so much DLC released that it makes more sense to purchase the entire game again. It is no secret that big-name publishers make most of their profit from additional purchases and not the base game, so some will also take things further by continuing to release additional content even past the release of the ‘Special Edition’. Season Passes – often sold at the time of release – may expire and require renewal in order to access additional content at a discount in the future, prolonging the income stream for the title. Day-One DLC is also an unfortunate trend in the modern market, as publishers often attempt to squeeze even more money out of the consumer’s wallet in order to access content which may be already available on the disc they already paid for.

When I think of DLC ‘done right’, the 2009 release of Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned comes to mind. Despite being signed as a timed exclusive deal to benefit the Xbox 360, Rockstar Games offered an entirely new perspective on the base game, Grand Theft Auto IV, with a full story mode and access to the game’s entire map with additional features. This was followed up later in the year with Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony, which followed the same concept. After the exclusive deal with Microsoft expired, these expansion packs were made available as standalone downloads (without requiring the base game to play) and on physical media for Microsoft Windows and the PlayStation®3 with the launch of Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City. We’ve seen other examples of standalone titles over the years, such as The Last of Us: Left Behind from Naughty Dog – originally released as DLC only, offering a cheaper backstory to introduce new players to the franchise.

If there was ever an example of how to be consumer-friendly, the way Rockstar Games handled Grand Theft Auto IV is one for the books. I would deem this as great value for money, especially as there is a point where the publisher stops treating your wallet as a free water tank. It is a shame that this trend did not continue for their future titles including Grand Theft Auto V. I give a lot of credit to Naughty Dog for the same reasons when it comes to single player gameplay. Polyphony Digital also deserves an honourable mention for offering completely free updates to improve its Gran Turismo series – this is passed off as the publisher’s DLC business model, but with a twist…

Keep an eye out over the coming weeks and we’ll talk about three more letters which have become a lot more commonplace in the current decade. Tolerated by some, loathed by most, for better or worse. Can you guess what these letters are?

A Clean Slate

Welcome to 2019 and Happy New Year!

In October 2017, I had a vision of what Mark’s Realm would be: an area on the internet where I can express myself freely and share what I am working on with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, due to conflicting commitments and workloads, this remained nothing more than a pipedream and the website continued to collect dust as time passed by. The procrastination stops today, and it is time for action which speaks a lot louder than words.

Firstly, I would like to ensure that Mark’s Realm is a platform where I create and share high quality content for the community on an ‘as and when’ basis. I have a target of one article per week; however, you can expect this number to increase as the year progresses. Over the years I have collected ideas of what to write about – whether it is related to technology or travelling – and 2019 is when these ideas become reality.

Something which has always interested me is developing an online portfolio of work. We live in a digital world and there is no excuse for this to be kept in a paper file any more. I do a lot of digital application development, filmography and photography which means I have a wide range of content to share. Where does complete secrecy get anybody nowadays? It’s time to be transparent!

To supplement Mark’s Realm and my portfolio of work, it is my intention to revive my YouTube channel in 2019. Part of this project includes deleting content from over ten years ago and publishing fresh, professional and relevant content for the community. I am also very interested in taking one of my hobbies – playing video games – to YouTube, and hopefully creating video reviews and walkthroughs in the future.

Great things are ahead for 2019 and I would be very grateful if you could come along for the ride.

Introduction to Mark’s Realm

Hello there and welcome to Mark’s Realm!

My name is Mark Andrews and I have created this website because I have many stories to tell. I am highly passionate about multiple aspects of the world we live in and take a strong interest in: reading, technology, travelling and writing. I am also active in various online communities and social media services including Twitter and YouTube.

If you take interest in the same things I do, this is the website for you. Please feel free to leave some comments on any published articles as I am very keen to participate in community discussions and explore topics from multiple angles. I also enjoy helping other people so if you require any assistance in relation to anything published here, please feel free to let me know.

Have fun!