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UK Regulator Advises Charities against Paying Bitcoin Ransoms to …

The Charity Commission in the United Kingdom has issued an alert toward all charities about an extortionist group demanding between £300 – £500 in bitcoin (approx. 1.03 to 1.72 BTC) or face cyberattacks, if the ransom isn’t paid up.

In an alert issued toward UK-based charities today, the Charity Commission has revealed that a cyber-extortion group calling themselves the “RepKiller Team” are threatening businesses around the UK with their extortionist demands.

The group is unlike other cyber-criminal extortionist groups who normally operate with distributed denial of service (DDoS) capabilities. As the name suggests, the “RepKiller Team”, as the alert advisory states, launch cyberattacks against organizations by inundating the web with negative reviews of the business, in their hundreds.

The threat essentially is to damage the target’s reputation, which is so often looked up with a quick google search online.

The extortionist group have made several attempts of blackmailing UK businesses over the past week, according to reports being gathered at Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting center.

The advisory reads:

This advice is particularly relevant for those charities which operate overseas and/or deal with international partners in high risk zones.

[…]

The group have sent emails demanding payment of between £300 – £500 in Bitcoins [a form of digital or ‘crypto’ currency] by a certain date and time.

[…]

[Do] NOT meet their demands and pay the ransom.

The demand, delivered by email, also contends that once the group’s smearing campaign begins, it “cannot be undone.”

Head of investigations and enforcement operations at the Commission, Carl Mehta said in a statement:

Charities need to be aware of the imminent danger posed by this fraudulent group and take appropriate steps to protect their charity’s assets and good reputation- both of which could be damaged if the ransom demands of the group are met.

The possibility of bitcoin-seeking extortionists targeting charities is in poor taste, especially when the cryptocurrency has and can be used for charitable causes in a plethora of ways. Micro-donations from a number of sources quickly adds up and furthermore, there are no fees that are usually charged by payment processors or card merchants. Furthermore, anyone in the world can donate to a charitable cause, anywhere else in the world, beyond geographical boundaries or without territorial restrictions.

The world’s largest non-profit charity started accepting bitcoin toward the end of 2014. Victoria van Eyk, head of community development at ChangeTip, a popular platform that enables micropayments over social media websites and message boards has previously stated:

The two best-use cases for bitcoin are micropayments and charitable giving, because of low transaction fees and frictionless public sharing on social media.

The statement was made when ChangeTip chose BitGive, a bitcoin charity, in order to benefit from its tip redirect feature.

With today’s advisory, it is notable that there have been no reported incidents of charities becoming victims of extortion demands made by the group.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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