Someone is trying to blackmail me and, quite frankly, I’m delighted. I consider it an honour and it shall become the latest addition to my heavily embellished curriculum vitae.
The blackmailers call themselves The Impact Team and their business is to extort money from subscribers who were exposed in the recent hack of the Ashley Madison infidelity website. Once again, let me reiterate that I signed up for research purposes.
The site has 36 million members so it must have been a very busy few weeks for the blackmailers. I was wondering when they’d get around to contacting me.
The thing is, though, I don’t believe they are who they say they are. The person or group who initially hacked the site call themselves The Impact Team and it seems highly unlikely that they did it for personal enrichment. In fact, the hackers said they would take on any target in the future that made money off “the pain of others, secrets and lies”.
The email I got, then, almost certainly comes from someone using The Impact Team’s name as a way of acquiring credibility. Blackmailers, as everyone knows, are five rungs below hackers on the ladder of evil. Besides, I picked up several errors similar to those found in emails sent by those lovable 419 rogues. Relax, my brudda, nobody has said anything about Nigeria.
After trying to scare me by naming the city I live in and accurately quoting the last four digits on my credit card, they said, “We are very pleased to announce you what will follow.” They gave me two options, which I thought awfully decent of them.
“We will publish your complete data (secret fantasies, conversations, pictures) and will match the data with your name and address on our new site. Your family, colleagues, friends will be informed. Many thanks to Facebook & Co. Email account contacts are a worthwhile information. You should better change the login data but it is to late.”
See what I’m saying? Anyone with the technological ability to hack into a site like Ashley Madison would probably be able to string a coherent sentence together.
So that was my first option, which, on reflection, wasn’t really an option at all. That was the threat. Option 2 was the option, and yet wasn’t.
“We are providing a chance to solve this case. You make a payment of 1.1 Bitcoins to …” Here, they provide a jumbled sequence of no fewer than 33 numbers and letters. No wonder Bitcoins have never really caught on.
Helpfully, they explain where I can buy Bitcoins and how to do the transfer. They also provide the exchange rate. One Bitcoin is worth $228 dollars. Fascinating. Then, as if in a James Bond movie, the clock starts ticking. “The time ends in five days. We will not publish your data and we will not inform your contacts.” In the event I still hadn’t got the message, they tacked on what appear to be terms and conditions.
“Reply is a waste of energy and time.
“We will never contact you again after you paid us. Our guarantee!
“You are ignoring us? We will not give you a second chance. Then we will inform your family and friends about you. Non-payment and we will destroy your life 100%.
“We do not make empty promises.
“Thanks. The Impact Team.”
In spite of their advice, I replied.
“Dear Sir/Madam. I have decided to reply because I have plenty of energy and time, as you’d expect from someone who subscribed to Ashley Madison. Here’s the thing, my brudda. Compared to my friends, I am a paragon of virtue. Revealing my ‘secret fantasies’ would only embarrass them, not me. Nobody wants to hang out with someone whose fantasy is to live in a world where animals can talk. As for my family, they couldn’t give a damn what I do, just as long as I don’t ask them for money. And when it comes to destroying my life, well, I’m doing a pretty good job of that without your help. I do, however, have a counter-offer. You give me two Bitcoins or I will publish your email and expose you for the loathsome, semi-literate filth that you are. Thanks. Ben Trovato.”