The FBI and the police across the US say people should not panic
It seems like cybercriminals behind sextortion scams decided to go for extremes, as the new scam email campaign focuses on the hoax bomb threats. The emails were sent to millions of Americans asking for Bitcoin payments, and triggered multiple searches and evacuations all across the country.
The new cyber extortion campaign reached businesses, universities, government buildings, and schools on Thursday. As typical, the email has several variations, featuring different subject lines or slightly varied text, but the content remains the same.
Since May, the FBI and authorities are battling sextortion scams that were extremely active this summer. Hackers were using data breach information (like usernames or passwords) to incorporate it within the spoofed email, claiming that the victim was filed while watching porn, and, if no specified Bitcoin payment is made, the compromising video will be sent to his or her relatives, coworkers, and friends.
While the sextortion focused on the strong human emotion which is a shame, the bomb threats are something that the government and the people take very seriously. Nevertheless, the authorities dismissed the threats and said the most probable purpose of the scam was financial gain, and, possibly, public panic (which did happen for a brief period).
Different scheme but same motive – horrible threats are based on money extortion
Allegedly, the culprit has hired an accomplice that planted the bomb and remains on the site. The criminal then says that the payment of $20,000 worth of Bitcoin should be made to a specified address and then proceeds with the threats:
Hello. There is an explosive device (Tetryl) in the building where your company is conducted. <…> It is small and it is hidden very carefully, it cannot damage the structure of the building, but in case of its explosion you will get many wounded people.
The perpetrator then said that if the payment is not transferred by the end of the working day, the bomb will be detonated. Allegedly, if the company does now pay, other organizations will be forced to, as it “isn't a one-time action.”
To everybody's surprise, bad actors also mention that they are not a terrorist organization and would not take responsibility for explosions in other buildings.
The New York Police Department tweeted:
Please be advised – there is an email being circulated containing a bomb threat asking for bitcoin payment. While this email has been sent to numerous locations, searches have been conducted and NO DEVICES have been found.
At this time, it appears that these threats are meant to cause disruption and/or obtain money. We’ll respond to each call regarding these emails to conduct a search but we wanted to share this information so the credibility of these threats can be assessed as likely NOT CREDIBLE.
The incident caused major disruptions across the US
Bomb threats are not a laughing matter, especially during the age of terrorism that has been booming for the past two decades. Therefore, there is no surprise there that many organizations and institutions disrupted their routine by evacuating or leaving work/school early, and law enforcement crews were dispatched.
Certain buildings even were placed under the lockdown until the situation is cleared. University students in Pennsylvania were warned via the text message about the threats in the local campus and the airport. The school later said that the situation seemed like a “national hoax.”
According to authorities, the spoofing email that was sent to a school in Missouri was sent from Russia. Nevertheless, the culprits of the campaign remain unknown to the FBI or the police, and the ordeal is still under intense investigation.
However, the officials urge people to remain vigilant:
As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activities which could represent a threat to public safety
Indeed, the warning was not in vain, as Columbine High School in Colorado was dealing with a different bomb threat – a call was made by the anonymous person that warned about the bomb hidden inside. Students were locked inside until the situation was cleared. The school already suffered a terror attack back in 1999 when two students killed 13 people.