In its print paper today, Israeli newspaper, Yediot Achronot is reporting that local firms have been hit with an online extortion campaign by what is believed to be foreign hackers. According to the paper, firms were hit with a virus that locked employees from being able to access files on the servers. Upon loading a file they received a popup stating that they would have to pay a sum of $500 or more in bitcoins to unlock their database.
The paper went on to report that after paying the extortion, firms received a password that allowed them to access their files. Representatives of affected companies quoted in the article stated to the Yediot that “it was like from the movies” and attempts to remove the virus were unsuccessful and.
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Quoted in the article is Bits of Gold CEO, Jonathan Rouach who stated that they were approached by 15 firms to exchange cash into bitcoins to pay the extortion, with conversions of $500 and $1000 being made. He added that his firm was helping affected companies handle the virus by offering free conversions and communicating with the police. A representative from Israel’s police was quoted in the paper as stating “The case is known to Israel Police, and to other enforcement agencies around the world. The police view this as a severe form of blackmail and attempt to threaten civilians using illegal entry to computers.”
The blackmail is believed to be the first broad campaign of its kind taking place in Israel. Due to its pseudo-anonymity, the use of bitcoins to collect ransom payments makes it harder for authorities to track such transfers.
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