Bitcoin ‘Sextortion’ Scheme Netted Cybercriminals Over $330,000

Blackmailers have reportedly managed to rake in over $330,000 worth of bitcoin, the flagship cryptocurrency, through an email-based ‘sextortion’ campaign that has been ongoing since at least 2017, and saw its activity surge last year.

According to a report published by UK firm Digital Shadows, the cybercriminals received said amount from over 3,100 unique BTC addresses. The funds ended up in 92 different bitcoin addresses believe to belong to the same organization, that could reportedly be making an average of $540 per victim.

The firm’s report, first spotted by The Next Web, tracked a sample of 792,000 emails sent to victims. The ‘sextortionists’ reportedly sent them an email that would include a known password as “proof” they hacked them, and claimed to have video evidence of them seeing adult content online.

The threat was that the video would be published online, if a ransom in BTC wasn’t paid. Last year, Cornell University computer science professor Emin Gün Sirer warned potential victims to “never pay, never negotiate” with cybercriminals trying to extort them.

Per Sirer, the emails were being sent to every email account on the popular website haveibeenpwned, which shows whether emails addresses had their data leaked on well-known online security incidents.

A Sophisticated Operation

The UK firm’s report seems to show the ‘sextortion’ operation was a sophisticated one, as scammers were seemingly trying to hire more people to help them target high-net-work individuals.

These hires could be getting high salaries, up to $768,000 a year, if they had experience in network management, penetration testing, and programming. The cybercriminals have notably also been using social media to target their victims.

The scammers’ capabilities are said to have varied in skill, as while some struggled to distribute a large amount of emails that could get past email server or spam filters, others managed to show high levels of sophistication, with emails sent from accounts specifically created for the campaigns.

Moreover, these campaigns were launched on a global scale, as the servers the emails came from were in five different continents. The highest amount of emails came from Vietnam, Brazil, and India. These servers could, however, have been compromised by the scammers as well.

Bitcoin and Friends Episode 2 Addresses Silk Road, Bitcoin's Case to Be Sound Money

Francisco Memoria

The second episode of the popular show Bitcoin and Friends, available on CoinMarketApp, has addressed some of the cryptocurrency’s first use cases, as well as its current battle with the U.S. dollar and other fiat currencies.

The show’s second episode starts off with a character called Pal Fifty, which resembles Hal Finney, passing away before telling Bitcoin and his entourage they need ot seek the cryptocurrency’s whitepaper.

In a heartfelt conversation shortly after Mitalik Buterin, a leading character representing Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin, tells Bitcoin its potential goes beyond money alone, and its father – Satoshi Nakamoto – doesn’t have to be the one to guide him. After some soul searching, we see Mitalk start to work on Ethereum (ETH).

As the story develops we see Jones, a car dealer turned drug dealer voiced by rap artist Petey Pablo, gets his power cut off. When he goes out to sell more drugs he finds his clients don’t need any. Later one, the show makes it clear they’ve ben buying their supply off of the dark web, through the now-defunct marketplace Silk Road.

The Silk Road was one of the first catalysts for Bitcoin’s popularity as the pseudonymous cryptocurrency was used to buy and sell drugs – and other items – on the platform. Its founder, Ross Ulbricht, received a double-life sentence for running the platform.

Bitcoin then starts throwing up more often small bitcoins, making it clear the cryptocurrency’s network is growing. In reality, more miners on the network mean it’s more secure and reliable. While the BTC network is now over a decade old, it has never been compromised.

Halfway through the episode we see Satoshi Nakamoto again. The cryptocurrency’s creator makes it clear to the Bitcoin character, while he’s high on cocaine, he needs to finds himself as “answers freely given are worth little.”

During this conversation, Satoshi gives Bitcoin four weapons: the Divisibility Dagger, the Portability Pack of Teleportability, the Shield of Durability, and the Sword of Scarcity to “cut through all the lies and FUD you will face.”

Bitcoin’s Battle With the U.S. Dollar

Nakamoto then tells Bitcoin he needs to “follow the light.” The character’s path sees him end up at a “Freedom Fest” in which gold and silver are used as the de-facto currency. After getting into some trouble, a general, Ross Fullbrick – representing Ross Ulbricht - rescues Bitcoin and explains gold and silver have their flaws, and that BTC is the future of money for freedom-loving individuals.

Per his words:

Bitcoin is the natural evolution of money into a digital gold standard. We don’t live in a physical world anymore boys. We need a means through which we can transfer value across the internet, anywhere, anytime, freely. Without the state, the religion of our time, impeding our freedoms.

What ensues is Bitcoin entering the “Economania,” an event that sees currencies compete for a championship belt. Gold, the Freedom Fest’s representative, never won, as it always loses to the U.S. dollar.

We then see the Dollar Bot beat gold once again. Bitcoin, using the weapons Satoshi gave him, which represent characteristics BTC has the USD doesn’t, beat the Dollar bot. The episode ends with a big bank representative receiving a call warning him about Bitcoin.

The Cryptocurrency Space’s Cartoon

The cartoon’s style seemingly resembles that of shows like South Park, Family Guy, and more. It has a sense of humor that can’t be appreciated by all, but has so far been well-received by the cryptocurrency community.

Contacted by CryptoGlobe on what feedback the show received, the show’s team noted:

Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive for both episodes. We're thrilled to see that we have a very loyal and motivated fanbase and we can't thank everyone enough for donations, gifts of time and talent, and so on. This project is growing into a community effort and we hope to see that support continue to grow.

On where they got inspiration for the show, its creator, Uncle Chris, and producer Broccoli Rob, revealed they initially had an idea for an advertisement that would see actors use large cryptocurrency-related costumes. While that never happened, Chris later contacted Robert on an idea for a Bitcoin cartoon which “quickly grew into a multi-season outline [show].”

Featured image via Bitcoin and Friends, YouTube