Growing Bitcoin Extortion: From Trump to Colleges and Businesses

US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner claims that someone tried to extort him for 52 Bitcoin before the 2016 presidential election.

Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, said he received an email from a certain “Guccifer400,” demanding the amount, which is roughly about $37,000 at that time, or $133,000 as of press time.

Otherwise, the sender threatens to release Trump’s controversial tax returns.

Why now: convenient diversion?

Kushner revealed the details of the allegations during his appearance at the Congress as he is currently being investigated in connection to the alleged collusion of Trump’s campaign with Russian officials during last year’s election. He flatly denied such accusations.

Kushner’s previous meetings with Russian officials are now being considered suspicious, in light of the alleged interference to thwart the election results in favor of his father-in-law.

It is still unclear, however, as to why Kushner revealed the supposed blackmailing scheme just recently.  

Could it be that to show that not all Russian hackers are working in favor of Trump?

Speculations have it that Guccifer400 seems to be a reference to Guccifer 2.0, a hacker linked to political interference before. The infamous Guccifer is known primarily for hacking email servers and dumping them, including the Democratic National Committee e-mails, online.

Controversial tax returns remain sealed

Alas, nothing came out of the threat despite being investigated by the Secret Service. Trump’s tax returns remain sealed, as they were not released by the supposed hacker.

He wrote:

“I brought the email to the attention of a US Secret Service agent on the plane we were all traveling [sic] on and asked what he thought. He advised me to ignore it and not to reply — which is what I did. The sender never contacted me again.”

The tax returns are a subject of mystery during the campaign with Trump being the only candidate who chose not to disclose the said documents.

Growing list of industries prone to Bitcoin extortion

Trump is not the only public figure and government official prone to Bitcoin extortion.

In fact, Russian banks, UK colleges and small businesses have been targeted in separate ransomware attacks in exchange for Bitcoin.

In the US alone, over 2,600 ransomware complaints were received by the FBI in 2016 costing more than $1.3 bln and the numbers are not showing any decline as it has increased by 50 percent since last year.

Online safety best practices to protect yourself from ransomware

As the number of Bitcoin-related ransomware grows, how can the average Joe protect himself from such cyber threats?

With most attacks coming mostly from emails or unfamiliar programs, security firm Alert Logic shares some helpful tips to avoid becoming the next victim of Bitcoin extortion.

  1. Whitelisting certain applications

  2. Disabling Macros in Microsoft office for heavy Excel users

  3. Double checking with senders when you’re suspicious of attachments

Since most ransomware attacks are carried out through email and particularly using seemingly trusted contacts, it is always best to double check with them through other platforms.

Source: Cointelegraph