The travel portal CheapAir.com issued an open letter to its customers on August 28, 2018 according to which it was the victim of blackmail. So the blackmailers apparently demanded a ransom of $10,000 in Bitcoin. If the amount was not paid, they would respond with massive, public reputational damage on multiple channels.
Specifically, the blackmailers threatened to flood the social media with negative reviews and comments on CheapAir and publish bad reviews on customer portals for reviews like Trustpilot. In addition, one wants to attack the SEO of the company by leaving backlinks to the blog in extremely condescending comments, in the hope that Google would block the corresponding blog pages.
According to CheapAir, such attacks are becoming more common. However, fulfillment of the demands was out of the question.
As a first reaction, the travel portal has the ability to submit Facebook reviews, disabled and selects with the open letter to customers a strategy of public communication.
How exactly one wants to deal with such extortion, is not yet clear. Similar to other affected portals, they are still looking for the best strategy for countering criminal energy – but progress should be reported to the public.
Bitcoin and the criminal energy
Unfortunately, such attacks are actually not an isolated case. Also, it should also be no coincidence that a Bitcoin blackmail hit just CheapAir.
The air travel portal has proven to be a pioneer in the crypto world in the past: Already in 2014, the company accepted Bitcoin, Litecoin and Dogecoin for payments.
This should give wind to the mills of those who suspect behind the use of Bitcoin & Co. above all criminal energy. But here the reputation of the digital currency is worse than the reality. In fact, according to recent estimates, only about 10 percent of all Bitcoin transactions are used for illegal purposes. By comparison, in 2013, the ratio was reversed and the US Drug Administration suspected criminal activities behind ninety percent of all Bitcoin transfers. If the blackmailers have already given a Bitcoin address, there is still hope that they can be traced back.