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Bitcoin Ransom Messages

Monday, October 22nd, 2018 - General

Since we seem to getting a lot of messages from our users inquiring about this, we thought it might be a good idea to address this here.

Lately there has been an increase in the number of ransom messages going out threatening to expose certain details about you if you don’t pay the hacker in bitcoin. We really can’t tell you if the message being sent to you and pertaining to you is legit. I don’t think it’s wise for any hosting company or security firm to state as much. But we can advise you on what we are seeing in regards to this. We are seeing a lot of messages like this, so it is very likely a scam in your case, but in the end you will have to make the determination on your own.

The message in question may look something like:

The wording might be a little different. But the same general message is the same. A few key takeaways here:

This is your password Is that really your password? Or has it ever been your password? If not, then you can stop right here, it’s a scam! If it is your password, then is it an easy to guess password? Have you reused that password some where else? How do they do this? Pretty simple actually, they pick a random password – usually a pretty common one – and then send out this message to millions and millions of email addresses… it’s bound to be the correct password for a handful of those users. The scam is not meant to work for every single user they email, but if it works for just a handful of users, the scammers make money.

I sent you an email from your account This is trivial to do. Email does not have a mechanism in place to verify that the person behind the computer/device that sends a message is actually who they say they are. Mechanisms do exist that can help verify a message was sent from a likely reliable sender, that are done on the recipient end of the message exchange. But those mechanisms aren’t infallible and aren’t universally accepted. How do they do this? Any knowledgeable or trained computer person can send a message to appear to have come from your email address. Just because the From line in an email has your email address does not mean it was sent by your computer or device.

I made screenshot with using my program from your camera of yours device Do you computers and devices have cameras on them? Have you actually visited any of the adult rated websites the message suggests? If you answer no to either of these, then it’s a scam! This is a scare tactic aimed to scare individuals into giving the scammers money. The tactic here is that a significant portion of Internet users may visit sites like this. Again, the scammers aren’t expecting the scam to work on 100% of the people they send this message to. It just has to work for a select few and the scammers make money.

After receiving the specified amount, all your data will be immediately destroyed automatically Since they have presumably sent this message out to hundreds if not millions of email addresses, how do they know which user a specific payment is referring? So how would they know to discard the information they collected if you pay? Simply answer: They don’t – because 1) they have no information and it’s a scam or 2) they will keep the information and continue to extort you for more money. Again this taps into people’s fears and resolution centers, that money can fix all problems and that’s what the scammers are hoping for.

• What information is missing? – If the scammers really wanted you to believe their message and if they had really stolen some of your information, don’t you think they would have addressed you by name? Or at least given some proof that they have. In kidnapping/ransom cases negotiators will ask for “proof of life” or proof that the kidnappers have the person in question, negotiators want this assurance before giving any ransom. In this particular case all the scammer has is a password that might not even be yours and if it is – it’s a common password that many people use and a scare tactic that they sent the email from your very own email address which is trivial for any knowledgeable computer person to do.

So is the message a scam? Probably. But this is something you really need to make a determination for yourself. I can tell you that we are seeing many complaints about such messages and we’re even getting them as well. So if you think you are being singled out and are the only one receiving these messages, know that you are not.

How can you protect yourself?

• Keep an up-to-date virus and malware detection system. A malware detection system like MalwareBytes can be helpful in regards to this.

• Keep your computer up to date. When computer vulnerabilities are discovered, programmers and developers that wrote that software will work to fix the security holes that led to that vulnerability. But it does you absolutely no good if you never install the updated code that they developed. If you want your computer and device to be safe and secure you have to apply security updates as soon as they become available.

• Use strong and secure passwords. If you are using simple and easy to guess passwords then this just increases the chances of your password being compromised. It may be difficult to remember a strong and secure password, but it’s going to be even more difficult when your password is compromised and your information is leaked out.

• Don’t reuse your passwords. If you’re using the same password for everything, then all it takes is for one service to suffer an information leak, and then the password you are using for everything is then in the public domain and capable of being compromised. Use separate, strong, and secure passwords for every service you use.

• Keep a backup of your files. If the files on your computer and device are important to you, make sure you keep a copy of them stored some where off of the computer or device. This way if you ever do get compromised or have your files deleted, you will have something to restore from.

Again, our aim is to give you the tools and information so that you can make your own informed decisions. If you are relying on someone else to make this determination for you, then you can fall victim if their determination is wrong. Educating yourself is the best defense you can have in regards to scams like this.

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