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DDoS Extortion: Attackers Demand Bitcoin Ransom

Distributed-Denial-of-Service, or DDoS, is a cyber attack in which a hacker attempts to create so much traffic to a targeted website’s networks that it does not allow for legitimate customers to access the site. The malicious actor overwhelms the system through the use of numerous devices to the point that a company’s site is slowed down significantly over typical operation levels or even to the point that real customers’ access has stopped completely. This is a headache of a cyber attack because it is preventing a company from making money during these periods of disruption and it can be one of the most lengthy cyber attacks to recover from.

A recent slew of DDoS attacks has taken the cyber crime to another level. Primarily targeting the financial, online retail, and travel industries, a group of cybercriminal extortionists have been threatening businesses with the attack to slow down or entirely stop real traffic to their sites. The attackers say they won’t strike the company with a DDoS insurgence if the company forks over a ransom payment in the form of Bitcoin.

Though DDoS attack threats with a ransom element are not anything new, the use of a specific form of payment makes this attack a little strange. The recent surge in the value of Bitcoin is to blame for a ransom being demanded in this payment method. Over the last few months, Bitcoin prices have grown massively from $11,662.26 in August of 2020 to $34,127.95 in January of 2021, nearly tripling over just four short months. With that in mind, it is clear that these are surely finance-minded cybercriminals, looking to make money off of Bitcoin’s growing valuation.

The cyber threats were brought to the attention of the public by a report issued by Radware which stated that between December of last year and the first few weeks of January 2021, that there have been several reports of DDoS extortionists. According to reports, the ransoms demanded ranged from 5 Bitcoin to 10 Bitcoin, which is roughly $150,000 – $300,000 in US Dollars. The variety in demands is due to the extortionists raising their ransom if the company did not meet deadlines outlined in the initial threatening email.

The Radware announcement also unveiled some of the details of the emails which cybercriminals were sending. One such email read:

“We asked for 10 bitcoin to be paid at to avoid getting your whole network DDoSed. It’s a long time overdue and we did not receive payment. Why? What is wrong? Do you think you can mitigate our attacks? Do you think that it was a prank or that we will just give up? In any case, you are wrong.

From Bitcoin.com

It is clear that these cybercriminals were not messing around. They were fully prepped to use their botnets to send excessive traffic to cause congestion to the targeted companies’ sites. When targeted businesses were unresponsive to the attackers, follow up emails were seen saying things like:

We will be kind and will not increase your fee. Actually, since the bitcoin price went up for over 100% since the last time, we will temporarily decrease the fee to 5 [bitcoin]! Temporarily. Yes, pay us 5 [bitcoin] and we are gone!

From Bitcoin.com

Despite these threats, Radware recommends that companies do not pay the ransom. As is common guidance with a ransomware attack, experts believe holding off and not paying up is best because the alternative can encourage the attackers to continue their sprees. When it comes to your company’s cybersecurity approach, it is important to invest in strong defenses always. Should your business receive a threat like this, Radware says that you should add additional protection to prevent the DDoS attacks.

DDoS attacks are usually a massive threat because the victims don’t know they are happening until they have begun — it is not easy to predict. Though these malicious actors have been able to dupe some people, they have shown their hand and companies now have the benefit of being aware of a potential impending cyber attack — should this be the situation you find yourself and your business, use this to your advantage to beef up your defenses to avoid paying up and avoid losing your legitimate business.

Image by kpargeter for Freepik.