Scammers Send Bomb Threats Worldwide Demanding Bitcoin
Spammers send a series of threat messages to companies, schools and other establishments throughout the world in English speaking nations, insisting on sending Bitcoin to avoid detonating an alleged bomb.
There is no proof that any real explosives are being set or exploded, but it causes several evacuations and law enforcement authorities scrutinize throughout the United States, Canada and New Zealand — and maybe in another places. Both the police examine likely threats and request the victims to be prudent.
Numerous illustrations of the e – mail blackmail were posted online. A classic illustration, printed by the Cedar Rapids Police Department in Iowa, has the subject line “Don’t waste your time.” Its sender cautions that a guy has carried an explosive package into “the building where your business is located.”
MSP and partner agencies on federal and local levels are conducting risk assessment procedures regarding the threats and will determine appropriate responses. NO indications of any explosives located or detonated to this point. We will continue to communicate info when available. https://t.co/fPXhNy2vPF
— Mass State Police (@MassStatePolice) December 13, 2018
By the end of the day, the sender claims $ 20,000 in Bitcoin, claiming that the “recruited person” explodes the bomb if he sees any law enforcement activity or strange behavior.” This is simply a business, nothing personal,” the email states.
“If the explosive device detonates and the authorities see this letter: We are not terrorists and dont [sic] assume any liability for explosions in other places.” The messages include a Bitcoin wallet address; it is not so far clear how many persons paid a ransom, if any.
We’re working a number of bomb threat calls in OKC. There have been similar threats called into several locations around the country. No credible threat found at this point. We encourage the public to continue to be vigilant and call with anything suspicious.
— Oklahoma City Police (@OKCPD) December 13, 2018
The Suffolk County Police Department has responded to at least 11 bomb threat incidents during which businesses, one school and one medical facility received an email demanding money. The threats are being investigated, but are deemed to be non-credible at this time.
— Suffolk County PD (@SCPDHq) December 13, 2018
The bitcoin wallet to transmit the ransom cash varies from message to message. It is a common strategy for ransomware scams to set up a separate wallet for every target, permitting offenders to make sure which targets have paid. It is harder to describe other variations in messages. Most threats call a specific explosive, but the kind varies from one message and another. Tetryl, tronitrotoluan[ sic] and hexigen are common choices.
JUST IN – Washington DC @MayorBowser confirms wave of bomb threats
• They were ALL sent via email
• Asked for a Bitcoin ransom
• NO explosive devices found in DC
Mayor’s statement below: @WUSA9 #breaking pic.twitter.com/w0puqOVJhO
— Mike Valerio (@MikevWUSA) December 13, 2018
There is no clear explanation as to how far this message has been distributed, but police departments across the US and parts of Canada have presently issued caution about the threats. One threat in the UK has been reported, although there is no clarity as to whether it’s related. Five Toronto subway stations were closed because of bomb threats.
We are aware & investigating email threats that were sent to multiple businesses in communities throughout Manitoba. #rcmpmb is determining the origin & validity of the threats. Investigation is ongoing. Updates to follow.
— RCMP Manitoba (@rcmpmb) December 13, 2018
WPS is investigating a number of bomb threats that have been sent to local businesses email accounts.
Businesses are spread throughout the city. Similar threats have been made in CAN and the US. WPS is taking these threats seriously but none have been substantiated.
— Winnipeg Police (@wpgpolice) December 13, 2018
The unfounded e-mail threat to local business and individuals is demanding a bit coin payment.
If you have been the recipient of such an e-mail threat, please do not respond to the bit coin demand.
— Ottawa Police (@OttawaPolice) December 13, 2018
A Cedar Rapids Police Department spokesperson told “They’re coming in really fast. I have no idea how many reports our folks have taken.”
The Bitcoin-spam-scammers have moved on from fake blackmail threats to fake bomb threats. So far no-one’s paid anything to the address, and I suspect it’ll stay that way. pic.twitter.com/N5MOdmu8Jm
— Tom Scott (@tomscott) December 13, 2018
The New York Police Department has issued an advice message online about the emails, stating it was “currently monitoring multiple bomb threats.” It pointed out that similar threat had been reported across the country, stating that they “are NOT measured trustworthy at this time.” The Oklahoma City Police tweeted that “no credible threat found at this point,” but stated that “we encourage the public to continue to be vigilant and call with anything suspicious.”
Please be advised – there is an email being circulated containing a bomb threat asking for bitcoin payment. While this email has been sent to numerous locations, searches have been conducted and NO DEVICES have been found. pic.twitter.com/7omOs13Z7Q
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) December 13, 2018
But several buildings were cleared or bolted down anyhow out of an plenty of caution, including a number of schools, hospitals, Call of Duty game developer Infinity Ward and the News & Observer in North Carolina. A Facebook building was cleared yesterday after a bomb threat, though it may not be linked.
— KWCH Eyewitness News (@KWCH12) December 13, 2018
Columbine High School and its associated schools were also shut down today because of a bombing threat, but that was an unidentified caller, not an email trick. Today’s email threat is like another extensive ransom scam earlier this year, but more straightforwardly threatening than it is. In that case, scammers sent an email stating they had taken photos of targets watching adult content online.
In fact, a number of people appear to have paid the ransom demands in these messages, although this does not necessarily mean that the same thing happens this time.
A statement from the Federal Bureau of Investigation says “we are aware of recent bomb threats made in cities around the country, and we remain in touch with our law enforcement partners to provide assistance. As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activities which could represent a threat to public safety.”
Cybersecurity agency CERT of New Zealand also published an advisory on the threats. “New Zealanders have reported receiving threatening emails that claim an explosive device is hidden in the recipient’s office, and will be detonated unless an amount of ransom in bitcoin is paid,” it reads. “While this is likely to be an opportunistic scam, New Zealand Police are treating this as a real threat until confirmed otherwise.”