My Cyber Experience The day we were blackmailed for Bitcoin


There I was typing away at my desk, then my phone rang. It was my mother – I sighed. Another pointless phone call, probably asking me how to type a question mark on her phone. She was panicking as she’d received a weird email but didn’t open the email fully. I told her not to worry and I’d have a look later.

Fast forward a few hours later, I went home and immediately looked at the email – thinking it was probably useless junk. Until I saw this...

Oh god. It’s quoting one of her email passwords?! I took a deep breath and told my mum what had happened. I went on her laptop, launched Google Chrome to change her email password. The web page loaded and I could instantly tell this wasn’t the correct site. The URL had been altered and the icons for all social media platforms were clearly visible underneath the search bar, almost prompting me to click on them to log into various accounts. What Google Chrome prompts you to log into EVERY social media or email account? I jumped out my seat and told her what happened. She panicked, pacing the house not knowing what to do. Once I’d calmed her down I asked her if she could remember what websites she’d been on. Panic stricken, she didn’t remember. I advised her to ring her bank, mobile provider and any other account that could be at risk.

Somewhere down the line, our internet service got involved. Our Wi-Fi was reset, we didn’t know if the hacker had managed to intercept the Wi-Fi – better to be safe than sorry.

I started up my own laptop and connected it to my phone via personal hotspot. I first logged into her Hotmail account (the compromised email); I changed the passwords on everything I could; added extra authentication and even checked where she was logged in. Vietnam? Must be the hacker! I thought as I remotely logged them out of all other devices.

Now to check everywhere else – Gmail, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter – yes, my mother uses social media like a teenager would – luckily for me, she’s on EVERYTHING.

4 hours later, the problem was dealt with. We changed all passwords, added extra authentication and ensured all passwords were different; using capital letters and punctuation where appropriate.

What went wrong?

After a lot of investigating, we eventually worked out what had happened to cause the breach. My 9 year old sister. She was using a recommended (from her school) website to practice her maths, this website however – was not certified as secure. Whilst she was playing online she had been ‘phished’ by a pop up ad, downloaded it and didn’t think anything of it. Unfortunately, she had unwittingly installed spyware on my mum’s computer. The person who was logged into my mum’s Hotmail account was in Vietnam, and was logged into it for nearly a month. We were being watched for nearly a month. When the hacker had realised they couldn’t get any sensitive information they tried to blackmail my mum for Bitcoin.

The experts

I took the laptop to a specialist as I didn’t want to touch it - I didn’t know the ins and outs of cyber breaches, so I wanted it to be checked by a professional. The expert advised that there were 13 types of virus/spyware on the computer and it had been on there for a very long time, not like the ‘fake Google Chrome’ that was new.

My key learnings/advice

• If a younger person is using a laptop or any device, check on them and give them some do’s & don’ts such as don’t click on adverts / download pop ups etc.

• Install paid software to protect against malware that includes searching your hard drive for any breaches

• Educate your family – my mum uses nearly every form of social media and has two emails, she wouldn’t know a fake site from a real one

• If you’re worried that you’ve had a breach, take it to a specialist

• Ensure all websites you visit are secure. Signs of security include a padlock symbol in the address bar, as well as website starting ‘https’ – the S means secure. You can also check the website ‘Sitelock’ as they are a company who can confirm secure and safe to use websites.

HNW Executive Home and Executive Plus cover

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the luxury of having our Executive Home or Executive Plus cover where we would have had the support of specialists, we had to do a lot of things ourselves.

However, your clients’ can have peace of mind knowing we will pay for the following issues arising as a result of a cyber attack

  • Home systems restoration
  • Computer virus removal
  • Professional assistance
  • Fraud
  • Telephone hacking
  • Cyber ransom
  • Identity theft assistance

May I just add… it also covers children who permanently reside within the family home.

For more information or the full terms, please refer to the HNW section of our website, or your policy wording.

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