Businesses in Amsterdam are facing a new threat: criminals asking to be paid in bitcoins to avoid businesses shut down after being attacked.
Emails being sent to businesses in the Dutch capital are demanding Bitcoin payments otherwise, the business in question would experience drive by shooting or grenade bombing attack.
Exploiting Municipality Law
The emails are taking advantage of municipality law that requires any business that experienced shooting or terror attack to be closed for some time.
The email said,
“You probably noticed how many entrepreneurs have had to close their doors recently by order of the municipality. To prevent you from being the next one, you must immediately take action,”
The crooks are demanding up to 50,000 euros from targeted businesses they intend to get money from.
A number of businesses have already received the threat email which directs the owners to open an account with Coinbase before sending the fund to a specified Bitcoin address.
Apparently, the extortionists are aware that some of these businesses may not be hodlers of Bitcoin. This may be the reason they are directing them to buy from Coinbase or Coinmama.
At least four businesses including a night club have been reported to have received the email. The criminals are threatening that if payments were not made within 5 days that the amount demanded would be doubled to 100,000 euros.
No Police Involvement
Interestingly, the extortionists demanded confidentiality, business owners were instructed not to report the threat to the police or risk having the demand quadrupled. In effect, the businesses that report to the police would have to pay 200,000 euros to avoid attacks.
Although none of the businesses sent the email has reported to the police, none has admitted paying the extortionists. Among the threats contained in the email is taking immediate actions to ensure that the business is shut down for the required minimum duration of 3 months.
A New Dimension to An Old Crime
Criminal extortion from businesses is not a new phenomenon, however in recent times we have started seeing criminals demand payments in cryptocurrencies due to its mainly pseudonymous nature. Some have used digital currencies that are known to be completely anonymous such as Monero and Zcash.
Even then, there were no indications that these criminals have used threat of violence on businesses to get the coins. Their usual pattern has been ransomware, in which malicious codes are introduced into machines of the companies causing malfunction.
With the computer system of the business compromised, owners are compelled to make payments in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies to have the malicious scripts removed.
A cybersecurity firm Sophos reported that cybercriminals have generated $6 million in Bitcoin ransom since 2015 when they created the malware.
The first isolated case of threat for Bitcoin against a company happened in Norway when Kryptovalt, a mining business received a bomb threat.
“This is sabotage. If you are expanding crypto mining and filling the country with noise, then you will be sabotaging the peace. I am threatening to send you some explosives,”
the email sent to Kryptovault read.