It may sound like a Tom Clancy novel or an episode of 24, but in this case, the truth is much stranger than fiction. Capitalizing on the fear surrounding the current global Ebola threat, the blackmailers sent an e-mail to the country’s top commercial TV station, TV Nova, on Monday. In it, they claim to have acquired “biological material” from an infected patient in Liberia. They are threatening to spread the virus in public areas unless they receive one million euros’ worth of Bitcoin (~3,550 BTC at current market prices). They have also demanded that the Bitcoin ransom be payable in three installments.
In a press conference on Monday, the country’s Deputy Police Chief Zdenek Ladube confirmed the threat stating:
“An unknown perpetrator or perpetrators are blackmailing this state, threatening to spread the Ebola virus.”
“From the very beginning these culprits have been seeking to spread panic, which is their primary goal.”
The Czech Republic’s interior ministry issued a public statement in which they said:
“[T]he culprit or culprits are using very sophisticated communication methods.” They did not elaborate on what those methods might be.”
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka voiced his opinion as well, calling the blackmailers “hyenas” for taking advantage of the fear caused by the recent Ebola threat.
Recently, there have been reports about four patients in the country being hospitalized after displaying Ebola-like symptoms. None of the patients has tested positive for the virus, however.
Local officials are asking people to remain calm. Chief public health officer Vladimir Valenta is assuring them that the deadly virus, which has already killed nearly 5,000 people, was unlikely to spread to the Czech Republic.
In a statement to reporters, Valenta said:
“Obtaining the virus, its transport, efficiently spreading it in a way other than contact with an ill person or his or her fluids is not too realistic.”
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