Bitcoin Extortion Through Bomb Threats Terrorizes Hong Kong

Hong Kong police have recently launched an investigation on multiple bomb threats proliferating over email intended to extort cryptocurrency, South China Morning Post reported December 13.

According to the report, authorities initialized an investigation Friday night to look into an anonymous email circulating across a number of companies in Hong Kong as well as in New Zeland, United States, and Canada, issuing bomb threats if firms fail to comply with the sender’s $20,000 Bitcoin demand, a scam that has been targeting not only domestic firms but also overseas.

Across New York, at least 40 locations have been investigated to confirm whether or not there were any bombs, but to no avail, leading them to suspect that the email was merely a hoax.

According to Network Box cybersecurity firm CEO Michael Gazeley, the email was received at around 1:51 am on Friday, noting that:

“This looks like the third wave of blackmail emails plaguing the world in the past few years. I have never seen something like this, which sounds like cyberterrorism, in my 20-year career in cybersecurity.”

He went on drawing a comparison to the previous wave of cyber scams coercing people after breaching their emails and social media credentials. In 2017, hackers have also resorted to breaching adult webcam accounts in an attempt to blackmail victims, threatening to expose their viewing habit of adult content online if they fail to meet the hackers’ Bitcoin demands.

As Gazeley underscored in the report:

“Compare the layout, the language and poor grammar of the email with the previous waves of emails. I am 99.999 percent sure it is not real. The bomb email didn’t even specify where my office is. But the threat to blow up my office is quite a new development in scams.”

As the representative of the Legislative Council’s IT sector Charles Mok noted, while the new form of scam didn’t really come as a surprise, he found the quality of the threat’s content to be unimpressive.

As Mok stated:

“Scammers need to be smarter. They can’t just say in a spam email, ‘You need to pay me or I blow up your office’. Would you pay after reading the email?”

As it stands, Hong Kong remains among the top five jurisdictions in the world found to be most vulnerable to cyber attacks. According to the country’s information security regulator the Hong Kong Computer Emergency Response Team, over 9,122 cyber attacks have been recorded in the first 10 months of 2018, which was over 50 percent more than that which were recorded in 2017.

Police data show that as of September this year, approximately HK$2.26 billion have been lost over scams targeting Hong Kong residents and firms, which is more than 500 percent more compared to statistics recorded in 2012.