Business

Dan Taylor

CheapAir falls victim to BTC extortion scheme

Online travel company CheapAir has become the latest company to fall victim to a BTC extortion scam, after threats of a campaign of disruption and defamation at the hands of cyber criminals.

According to reports, CheapAir was told to pay $10,000 in BTC, equivalent to 1.4 BTC, to avoid a smear campaign which the scammers promised would damage its relationship with its customers.

The threats included posting an avalanche of negative reviews about the company online, as well as attacking search engine rankings and social media properties tied to the company.

The development marks the latest instance of a new type of BTC scam, where criminals threaten businesses more directly. Rather than the ransomware scams of recent months, these scams take a more holistic approach, threatening to destroy reputations, rather than merely destroying data.

However, according to the CheapAir social media team, there will be no compromise. Paying the ransom has been categorically ruled out, with the firm intent on fighting those issuing the threats.

In a blog post, the CheapAir team said, “But paying these cyber thugs is not an option being considered…We are letting you know about this in advance so, should you see unusual social media activity or negative posts on any of our accounts, you’ll have gotten the full picture of what’s going on.”

The attack is said to already be underway, with some negative tweets appearing about the firm over the last day or so. However, these appear mostly to come from bot accounts, and don’t look too threatening for the firm as yet.

It remains to be seen whether the attack will ramp up further over the next few days.

CheapAir accepts payments for flights in cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, reporting a 74% rise to $15 million in crypto payments taken during its last accounting period. At the time, CEO Jeff Klee said that bitcoin shoppers were a good fit for their brand.

“We find that the bitcoin shopper is decidedly more international than traditional non-bitcoin shoppers, who tend to focus more on domestic locations,” Klee said.

However, with scams like these becoming increasingly common, CheapAir may be forced to reconsider its dealings with BTC. As ransomware and demands for payments in BTC become ever more common, companies must be more vigilant than ever to these kinds of attacks.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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