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Cyber Thugs Threaten CheapAir With Smear Campaign in Bitcoin Extortion Scheme

Last Updated March 4, 2021 3:36 PM
Mark Emem
Last Updated March 4, 2021 3:36 PM

Online travel agency CheapAir has been threatened with a smear campaign on social media unless it pays a ransom in bitcoin.

The threat which was received last weekend demanded a ransom of US$10,000 in bitcoin or approximately 1.4BTC at current prices. Failure to do so, the threat stated, would result in a campaign aimed at damaging the company’s relations with its customers.

Besides threatening to paint the flight comparison website in a negative light on social media, the cyber thugs are also promised to write negative feedback on review websites as well as undermining the search engine optimization rankings of CheapAir.

No Surrender

According to the social media team of the online travel agency, giving in to the demands of the hackers has been ruled out though.

“But paying these cyber thugs is not an option being considered,” wrote CheapAir’s social media team in a blog post . “We are letting you know about this in advance so, should you see unusual social media activity or negative posts on any of our accounts, you’ll have gotten the full picture of what’s going on.”

Per a posting on the company’s Twitter account, the smear campaign has already kicked off. Most of the negative tweets that have surfaced so far appear to have been generated by bot accounts.

As previously reported by CCN.com, CheapAir remained one of the travel sites that still accepts cryptocurrencies as a means of payment after travel tech giant Expedia stopped taking payments in bitcoin less than two months ago. CheapAir started accepting bitcoin in late 2013 following consumer demand. Initially, it was just for flight bookings but this was extended to hotel reservations in a matter of months.

74% Increase in Bitcoin Usage

Early last year, CheapAir disclosed that over a six-month period the level of bitcoin payments in the booking of flights and accommodation had risen by 74% to hit a figure of US$15 million. At the time the CEO of the online travel agency, Jeff Klee, indicated that customers who paid using bitcoin tended to have a global mindset.

“We find that the bitcoin shopper is decidedly more international than traditional non-bitcoin shoppers, who tend to focus more on domestic locations,” said at the time.

Additionally, Klee revealed that bitcoin usage on the platform was strongly correlated with the price of the flagship cryptocurrency as during bullish markets usage increases and vice versa. Klee also pointed out that one of the reasons some of the customers preferred paying using bitcoin was because it involved fewer steps when checking out.

Featured image from Shutterstock.