No One Should Give In to Cyber Extortion Unless It’s a Life or Death Situation

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Media Outlet: The Slate

Josephine Wolff wrote for Slate about online extortion:

In time, we may look back on Russia’s interference with the 2016 presidential election as the good old days of cybercrime and information warfare. Sure, poorly protected computers enabled some fairly dramatic attempts at large-scale manipulation and humiliation—but on the bright side, there was nothing subtle or secret about it. Large-scale dumps of embarrassing political documents on Wikileaks are far preferable to the activity that Bloomberg attributed to Russian hackers this week: demanding payments from liberal U.S. organizations to prevent their stolen data from being released.

According to Bloomberg reporter Michael Riley, at least a dozen progressive groups have been told to make payments ranging from $30,000 to $150,000 or face the public release of compromising stolen emails and files. It’s not yet clear whether the Russian government is actually driving these extortion efforts, and the sums of money demanded in anonymous Bitcoin payments seem far too small to be of much interest to a major national government. But, Riley writes, the perpetrators of these extortion attempts “used some of the techniques that security experts consider hallmarks of Cozy Bear,” the Russian government hacking group.

Author:

Josephine Wolff was a Class of 2016 & 2017 Cybersecurity Initiative Fellow at New America, where she will write a book about cybersecurity incidents from the last decade, tracing their economic and legal aftermath and their impact on the current state of technical, social, and political lines of defense.