Cybersecurity

Former State Dept. official cops to cyberstalking scheme

A former U.S. State Department employee pleaded guilty on "sextortion" scheme and cyberstalking young women attending college in the United States, the Department of Justice announced Dec 9.

Atlanta resident Michael C. Ford was indicted by a grand jury in Georgia on Aug. 18 of this year, with nine counts of cyberstalking, seven counts of computer hacking to extort and one count of wire fraud. Ford's activities focused largely on sorority members and aspiring models.

Targeting hundreds of people in the U.S., Ford used various aliases, including "John Parsons" and

"David Anderson." His campaign was designed to "force victims to provide Ford with personal information as well as sexually explicit videos of others," the Justice Department announcement stated.

According to the allegations, Ford did the majority of this phishing and cyberstalking from his work computer at the U.S. Embassy in London.

He was able to hack into hundreds of email and social media accounts by sending phishing e-mails to thousands of potential victims, giving them a warning to provide passwords or their email accounts would get deleted. Ford also allegedly sought sexually explicit photos on computers of his victims, which he would then use as leverage to enmesh targets in a scheme to collect videos of women undressing in changing rooms at stores and gyms.

"With nothing more than a computer and a few keystrokes, modern predators like Michael Ford can victimize hundreds of people around the world," Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said in a statement.

Ford successfully hacked into at least 450 online and threatened at least 75 victims, according to DOJ officials. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 16; the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security Service and the FBI continue to investigate the case.

About the Author

Aisha Chowdhry is a former staff writer for FCW.


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