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CheapAir, the California-based travel agency, is the latest organization to come under attack from cybercriminals demanding payment in Bitcoin.

STD Company Threatens CheapAir with Internet Blackmail

According to a statement published on the company’s website on Tuesday (August 28th, 2018), CheapAir announced details of the threat it had received. In an email to the company published by Motherboard, the suspected cybercriminals said:

We are experts in destroying personal or company reputation online. Once we complete our job, even if your site remains on Google, you can be sure that all first page would be full of negative results about your company.

The email was sent by a group called “STD Company” and was signed with the pseudonym “Semyon.” STD Company is threatening to bury CheapAir under a deluge of negative reviews on platforms like TrustPilot and RipOff. The cybercriminals also plan to post lots of negative interactions on CheapAir’s social media pages unless their blackmail demand of 1.5 bitcoins is met.

Commenting on the organization’s response to the threat, Jeff Klee, the CheapAir CEO said:

We’re definitely not going to pay these cyber thugs, but we still have to devote a lot of time and resources to combating it.

As part of its efforts, CheapAir has retained the services of SSPR, a digital public relations firm. SSPR is sharing screenshots of STD smear campaign posts to sensitize people on the tactics used by the blackmailers. The blackmailers appear to have created scores of bot accounts on Twitter and Instagram. The bot accounts have already begun posting negative rhetoric about CheapAir.

Bitcoin blackmail

Bitcoin Blackmail

Online blackmail is by no means the exclusive preserve of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. However, as the market grows in popularity, unscrupulous elements are taking advantage of its anonymity to perpetrate online crimes like ransomware and cryptojacking attacks.

To hospitals, government agencies, and even the PGA Tour, cryptocurrency-enabled online crimes continue to be a scourge. The CheapAir attack is another variant of the menace wherein cybercriminals don’t need to hijack servers or unused computing power. They can threaten organizations with bad press in the hopes of coaxing them into paying the ransom.

For CheapAir, this situation is likely a not without a sense of irony given that the company has a history of adopting cryptocurrency payment options. In May, CheapAir added Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, and Dash to its pool of accepted digital currencies.

What steps do you think CheapAir can take to fight the blackmail attempt? Keep the conversation going in the comment section below.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.

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