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Ex-cop abused police tool in Snapshot sextortion plot that stole sexually explicit photos and videos


October 24, 2022

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Ex-cop abused police tool in Snapshot sextortion plot that stole sexually explicit photos and videos

A former officer at Louisville Metro Police has admitted his part in a conspiracy that stalked and extorted young women online, breaking into their Snapchat accounts in order to steal their naked photos and videos.

36-year-old Bryan Wilson initially pleaded guilty in June, but more details of the plot have been released now.

According to prosecutors, Wilson was involved in hacking the Snapchat accounts of 25 women, and published the explicit stolen photos and videos on several occasions.

What makes the case particularly notable is that the extortionist was able to abuse his privileged access to a police tool to help him hack into young women's accounts and steal intimate snaps.

Despite having left the police force in June 2020, Wilson was able to still access Accurint - a controversial and powerful data-gathering tool - in order to dig up information about his potential victims.

Accurint claims to be able to "scan millions of websites — including hundreds of social networking sites — and the deep web to uncover information on individuals and any businesses or organizations with which they may be associated."

Tools like Accurint can clearly be of benefit to law enforcement, but certainly should not be used by someone who has left the force, and should have had their login credentials revoked.

Information gathered by Wilson through his unauthorised access to Accurint was then shared with a hacker who would break into the accounts for him.

Wilson texted victims, threatening to share the stolen sexually explicit images and videos with their family, friends, and co-workers unless they provided him with more sexually explicit material.

Here's an example of a text exchange Wilson had with one of his victims:

Wilson: I’m curious which picture you’d prefer me to use as the focal point of a collage im making . . . (pictures were attached)

Victim: Who is this?

Wilson: You cool with me posting em? Im telling you, everyone will LOVE them!

Victim: How did you get these.

Wilson: ...I had planned to send your pictures to your parents, brother, grandparents, sisters, friends, facebook, pornhub, employer, etc but I would gladly keep all of this between you and I (and tell you who sent them to me) if you promise to leave me out of the drama and show me a few more pics that way we can both benefit...

On at least one occasion, Wilson actually sent sexually explicit photographs and videos to a victim's employer.  According to US Attorney Michael A Bennett, this almost resulted in the termination of the victim's employment.

It's clear that Wilson's behaviour would have caused his victims psychological trauma.  Not only were they the unwitting victims of an extortion plot which threatened to publish their private photos online, but he also called them "dirty sluts", "whores", and "bitches" in his text exchanges.

One victim told the court that she suffered months of harassment that left her terrified. "Bryan Wilson completely filled my life upside down," she said.

Wilson has now been sentenced to a total of 30 months in a federal prison.

Our advice for Snapchat users is to harden their account security by enabling two-factor authentication (2FA), and to ensure that they always use a unique, hard-to-crack, password.

And, of course, our advice to organisations is to always revoke login credentials when someone leaves your employment.




Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, researcher and public speaker. He has been working in the computer security industry since the early 1990s.

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