Extortion for Bitcoin has become more and more common within the United States, with families, businesses and even police departments under attack. Anywhere from a couple of bitcoins to one hundred or more are demanded. The problem has been domestic, but now other major Bitcoin markets like Australia and New Zealand are feeling the effects of those desperate enough for Bitcoin that they turn to a life of crime. A scourge of DOS attacks has hit the region, according to ZDNet.
Extortion in Australia by an Unknown Group
The identity of the group or its participants is unknown at this time, but they use emails to blackmail their targets. According to New Zealand's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), they have threatened to perform DOS (Denial of Service) attacks against businesses and organizations in New Zealand. The New Zealand Internet Task Force (NZITF) also says that targets in Australia are subject to similar DOS attacks as well. Emails are sent to potential victims, warning them of crippling DOS computer attacks if they do not receive 25 bitcoins within 24 hours. As a show of strength and veracity, the targets are subjected to the DOS attack for one hour.
"The networks of at least four New Zealand organizations that NZITF knows of have been affected, so far," said NZITF chair Barry Brailey. "A number of Australian organizations have also been affected."
In the West, attacks have become more common, with most recently police precincts in Illinois and families in Connecticut have felt the wrath of extortionists doing crimes for Bitcoin. The Connecticut families were targeted for $2000 each while the police department was hit for $500. Tewksbury, Mass police also paid $500 to get out from under the CryptoLocker virus of an extortionist.
The local authorities have advice for businesses that may be subject to future targeting in Australia and the region. This is what can be done to improve preparedness in the short-term.
"Where applicable, temporarily transfer online services to cloud-based hosting providers that have the ability to withstand DoS attacks," the NCSC advises online businesses. Use a denial of service mitigation service for the duration of the DoS attack. Disable website functionality or remove content that is being specifically targeted by the DoS attack. For example, search functionality, dynamic content or large files."
The New Zealand Internet Task Force is advising organizations to refuse to pay any such demands, as that would create an environment where one could see multiple attacks in the future. Contacting the Internet provider is advised.
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