June 11, 2019 By David Bisson 1 min read

Malicious actors are threatening to ruin websites’ reputations and get them blacklisted as part of a new extortion scam campaign.

According to Bleeping Computer, this extortion campaign involves fraudsters using websites’ contact forms to reach out to site owners. These emails typically have the subject line “Abuse and lifetime blocking of the site – example.com. My requirements.” The message warns the recipient that the fraudsters will destroy the site’s reputation unless they pay 0.3 bitcoin — currently worth approximately $2,400 — as a ransom.

The fraudsters also say they’ll prey upon the site by sending 30 offensive messages to 13 million sites, sending 300 aggressive advertising messages to another 9 million web locations, and spamming for the site on blogs, forums and other websites. Such actions, the malefactors note in their message, will ultimately prompt users to leave negative reviews and feedback about the site and ultimately get the site blacklisted for distributing spam.

The Evolution of an Extortion Scam Campaign

Back in July 2018, Krebs on Security came across the first iteration of this scam in a series of sextortion emails that used people’s compromised passwords to trick them into paying as much as $1,400 for the supposed preservation of their privacy.

A few months later, Bleeping Computer uncovered a scam campaign that used a fake bomb threat to extort recipients. Around the same time, the firm found a similar operation using the threat of a hit man to prey upon organizations.

Awareness Is Critical to Prevent Cyber Extortion

Security professionals can help their employees avoid extortion scam campaigns by conducting regular awareness training, establishing strict policies and implementing email security solutions to defend against phishing attacks. Companies should complement this investment with regular phishing tests to measure how well this three-pronged strategy works in a simulated phishing attack.

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