Israeli Banks Report Extortion Attempt by Hacker Demanding Payoff in Bitcoin

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail

At least three Israeli banks have received emails from an unknown individual threatening to release the personal details of millions of customers unless a payment of tens of thousands of shekels is made – in the virtual online currency Bitcoin. Israel Discount Bank, the First International Bank of Israel and Bank Yahav all received similar demands, sent via the “contact us” option on their websites. The banks filed police complaints and reported the incidents to the Bank of Israel.

Sources in Israel’s banking sector sources said it’s not yet known whether the threat is credible – that is, whether the would-be extortionist actually has access to the information he is threatening to expose.

The emails to the banks say the writer accessed the details of bank customers by hacking their computers and not the banks’ own servers.

The Bank of Israel held a meeting on Tuesday on the issue. Participants included information security professionals from the country’s commercial banks. The central bank is cooperating with the Shin Bet security service and the Prime Minister’s Office to help secure the banks’ computer systems.

The Bank of Israel instructed the commercial banks not to respond to threats of this nature without prior coordination with the central bank. It also told the banks to prepare for the possible release of customer information.

The banks’ information security departments are monitoring Internet traffic for attempts to hack into the accounts of their customers as well as for the publication of the information the extortionist claims to have.

A pile of Bitcoins. Unmarked bills in low denominations are so 2012.Credit: Bloomberg