A massive number of businesses, schools, government offices and individuals across the US, New Zealand and Canada on Thursday received bomb threats via emails that caused nationwide chaos, forcing widespread evacuations and police response.
The bomb threat emails were apparently sent by spammers, threatening people that someone has planted bombs within their building that will be detonated unless a bitcoin payment of $20,000 is paid by the end of the business day.
"I write to inform you that my man has carried the bomb (Tetryl) into the building where your business is located," one of the emails posted to social media read.
"It was assembled according to my instructions. It can be hidden anywhere because of its small size, it cannot damage the supporting building structures, but there will be many victims in case of its explosion."
"You must pay me by the end of the working day, and if you are late with the transaction the bomb will explode."
"This is just a business, if I do not see the bitcoins and a bomb detonates, other companies will transfer me more money, because it isn't a single case," the message continued.
However, the threat was appeared to be hoax ransom ploys for bitcoin payment, numerous law enforcement departments issued alerts notifying citizens after no actual explosives were found.
"We are currently monitoring multiple bomb threats that have been sent electronically to various locations throughout the city. These threats are also being reported to other locations nationwide and are not considered credible at this time," the New York City Police Department said.
The Hacker News received multiple copies of such emails from its readers, and the Bitcoin address where the ransom money is to be sent is different in each message.
It is unclear who is behind these emails, but it's very similar to recent sextortion strains where scammers sent emails to victims, claiming that they had recorded webcam footage of them watching porn online and demanded ransom payment to prevent the alleged footage from leaking.
The FBI has launched a query into the matter and also released a statement in response, saying "we are aware of recent bomb threats made in cities around the country, and we remain in touch with our law enforcement partners to provide assistance. As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activities which could represent a threat to public safety."