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Want to save your life? You’d better have some bitcoins.

2013-05-17 18.31.16

photo courtesy of Zach Copley

Blackmailers have found a way to email the Czech Government with a threat that has become increasingly more serious since the spread of the disease – they are demanding one million euro in order to keep them from releasing Ebola into the Czech Republic. The catch here is that they want their euros in bitcoinsmainly so that the money cannot be traced. The threat takes on a new face when it continues that if they chose not to respond, these blackmailers will, through social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube, highlighting the fact that their government doesn’t care about their overall welfare. According to an article discussing this issue  the Czech Police are not treating the threat as a serious one (article here). Said Czech police president deputy Zdenek Laube in the same article, ‘The only intention of the blackmailers is to cause a panic’, This still being the case, what an interesting means of transporting this information, and what does this use of social media tell us?

To instill a panic like this would in any country, one must reach the highest number of people. In the past, you could expect to have something like this show up on the headlines of a newspaper, snuck in by a risky writer who wasn’t told he could publish the story. Today, a threat like this is nearly unmanageable, because all it would take to reach the millions in Prague and the Czech Republic at large would take a few letters and the click of a button to spread a panic. With Ebola spreading slowly from one country to another, everyone is wondering when the ‘first confirmed case’ articles will start showing up for their own. How interesting that we live in a time where a worldwide threat can be negotiated from the couch in your living room? With no way to trace the server that is being used by these blackmailers, and no way to trace the bitcoins if they were to send them, does this make this the perfect crime? Are more computer hackers going to try their hand if this doesn’t work out as planned, to face the ‘challenge’? As worldwide conflict works, there are always going to be those behind the scenes that are taking roles in planning as well as executing certain aspects of an attack or threat, but this takes on a whole new definition of crime, and even terrorism that is strictly over the internet,

Likely, this is not a threat that is to be considered, but it has potential to cause the panic that the blackmailers may have wanted. Additionally, to cite the negligence of the Czech Government (as the blackmailers planned to if given no bitcoins) might mean that their intention was never to spread the disease or a panic, but to shake the sturdy ground underneath the Czech Government, and to cause doubt. No matter what the case, the use of social media as both a grounds for placing the threat (email), receiving the payment (bitcoin) and spreading the panic (Twitter,etc) is extremely notable. If handled incorrectly, this could change the face of modern day terrorism, as it has started being used in recent years, most notably through the videos shared by ISIS. As more and more people from all over the world gain access to this kind of information and these means of spreading it, there is no telling what could happen.

This leads to a question of moderation of the internet – is it just? Should just those countries experiencing these kinds of instances have better locks on their users, or should everyone receive the same freedoms, even if there are these blackmailers gaining anonymous access to their government’s private emails? It is a feeling of lack of safety in the least tangible way, but there are so many variables and so many that would feel taken advantage of if they were to lose their rights as internet users do to the actions of another. That being said, where is the line to be drawn between giving internet users their freedom and taking caution against those who abuse it?

Featured image courtesy of NIAID

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