A fake ransomware scam is going around that targets website contact forms. It sends an email to the site owner with the subject “Your Site Has Been Hacked.” The body of the email claims the hackers have exploited a vulnerability to gain access to the site’s database and “move the information to an offshore server.” The email threatens to ruin the site owner’s reputation by selling the site’s database, notifying customers that their information has been compromised, and de-indexing the site with search engines using blackhat techniques.
Within the past few weeks, website owners have reported having received this email on various support channels, including WordPress.org, stackoverflow, and reddit. The sites in question have not been defaced, nor do they show any other evidence of tampering.
The Bitcoin Abuse Database has seen a surge of reports regarding this scam in May and June, logged under various Bitcoin addresses. The scammers send the email out indiscriminately, even targeting sites that do not have a database. So far the campaigns have not been very successful at convincing site owners to pay the ransom.
The Bitcoin Abuse Database advises visitors that extortion emails are 100% fake and those who receive them should not pay ransoms.
If you or one of your clients receive an email like this, rest assured that it is a scam that requires no action. If you want to be extra cautious you can change your passwords and use a security plugin to scan your files for changes. Otherwise, simply delete the email.
An example of this scam email is below for reference:
PLEASE FORWARD THIS EMAIL TO SOMEONE IN YOUR COMPANY WHO IS ALLOWED TO MAKE IMPORTANT DECISIONS!
We have hacked your website [website URL] and extracted your databases.
How did this happen?
Our team has found a vulnerability within your site that we were able to exploit. After finding the vulnerability we were able to get your database credentials and extract your entire database and move the information to an offshore server.
What does this mean?
We will systematically go through a series of steps of totally damaging your reputation. First your database will be leaked or sold to the highest bidder which they will use with whatever their intentions are. Next if there are e-mails found they will be e-mailed that their information has been sold or leaked and your site [website URL] was at fault thusly damaging your reputation and having angry customers/associates with whatever angry customers/associates do. Lastly any links that you have indexed in the search engines will be de-indexed based off of blackhat techniques that we used in the past to de-index our targets.
How do I stop this?
We are willing to refrain from destroying your site’s reputation for a small fee. The current fee is $2000 USD in bitcoins (BTC).
Send the bitcoin to the following Bitcoin address (Copy and paste as it is case sensitive):
Once you have paid we will automatically get informed that it was your payment. Please note that you have to make payment within 5 days after receiving this notice or the database leak, e-mails dispatched, and de-index of your site WILL start!
How do I get Bitcoins?
You can easily buy bitcoins via several websites or even offline from a Bitcoin-ATM. We suggest you https://cex.io/ for buying bitcoins.
What if I don’t pay?
If you decide not to pay, we will start the attack at the indicated date and uphold it until you do, there’s no counter measure to this, you will only end up wasting more money trying to find a solution. We will completely destroy your reputation amongst google and your customers.
This is not a hoax, do not reply to this email, don’t try to reason or negotiate, we will not read any replies. Once you have paid we will stop what we were doing and you will never hear from us again!
Please note that Bitcoin is anonymous and no one will find out that you have complied.