A former London-based U.S. Embassy employee has been indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with an online hacking and extortion scheme involving stolen passwords and explicit images.
Michael C. Ford, 36, was charged on Aug. 18 with nine counts of cyberstalking, seven counts of computer hacking to extort and one count of wire fraud in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Ford was originally arrested in May in Atlanta.
The indictment states that Ford, while working as a civilian employee at the London Embassy, allegedly used his government-issued computer to conduct phishing, hacking and cyberstalking activities. These events allegedly took place between January 2013 and January 2015.
“Ford is alleged to have hacked into hundreds of e-mail accounts and tormented women across the country, by threatening to humiliate them unless they provided him with sexually explicit photos and videos,” U.S. Attorney John Horn said in a written release.
The court papers allege that through a phishing scam Ford pretended to be part of an “account deletion team” and asked the victims via email for their passwords, stating their email accounts would be deleted if they refused. He then used the provided passwords to access email and social media accounts and to steal sexually explicit photos and personally identifiable information (PII) from the victims.
His next step allegedly involved emailing the victims a message containing their PII and their explicit photos attached. Ford allegedly demanded the victims obtain and send him sexually explicit videos or else he would email the photos to family members or post them online.
A trial date has not been set.
Ford's attorney could not be reached for comment.