It started Tuesday when technology CEO Roger Ver got a request for a Skype chat from someone using the name Savaged.
“I am the one that hacked into your emails… I just want to speak,” Savaged wrote.
“How can I help you?” Ver responded.
“I will return all the stuff I stole from you… I can do a lot more, just wanted your attention sir,” Savaged said.
“You have my attention.”
From there, Savaged showed that he had stolen Ver’s personal information, including his Social Security number, and threatened to sell it to “fraudsters” who would “ruin” Ver’s life, and that of his mother, unless he paid up, according to a chat log later posted online by Ver, as first reported by WIRED. The hacker had managed to access an old Hotmail email account of Ver’s and used it to break into some other online accounts.
But Ver was not as easy a mark as the hacker believed. In addition to being CEO of the technology company Memory Dealers, Ver is reportedly known as “The Bitcoin Jesus” for his vocal support of, and investments in, the online currency – not exactly a man new to the intricacies of the web and its unique economy.
So when told to fork over the equivalent of $20,000 in Bitcoins, Ver decided to flip the script.
Instead, he sent the hacker (or hackers – Ver was contacted by multiple online identities) a link to a Facebook posting that offered the $20,000 to anyone “for information leading to the arrest of the hacker who is trying to access all my stuff at the moment.” The reward was also posted on Twitter.
“Game theory dictates that you should never pay the ransom because there is nothing to stop them from trying to extort you again,” Ver told ABC News when reached over Facebook.
This time, apparently, the tactic worked.
“Sir, I am sincerely sorry I am just a middleman I was being told what to tell you [sic],” the hacker wrote through Skype. “Please stop I am so sorry I told him that you are now going to have me killed over something he made me do I didn’t even do this it was someone else [sic].”
“Once Roger tweeted he was putting a bounty on them, the hackers got scared and ran away,” Jason Maurice, an acquaintance of Ver’s, said in a posting on Reddit. Ver’s reward notice did not ask anyone to harm his hacker, but Bitcoin’s “sometimes unsavory connections” with other parts of the internet, as WIRED put it, may have spooked the hacker.
Ver, who was attending an event in Singapore with Maurice during the incident, told WIRED he didn’t “have much faith” in the authorities to track down his cyber attacker, but said, “I hope they actually do catch him.”
Ver’s story emerged along with other reports of technological ransom. In Australia, some iPhone users have been locked out of their phones by hackers attempting to extort them, asking for cash in return for access to their own devices.