Taiwan is investigating a case of five brokerage companies having received email threats by an unknown cyber-group, asking to make payments to avert an attack that, otherwise, could crash their websites.
“Each brokerage had got an email, setting a deadline for the transfer of funds to avoid a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack,” Rick Wang, an official with Taiwan's Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC), was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Usually in such attacks a website is overloaded until it is forced to inhibit access or go offline. They have become common tools for cyber criminals trying to cripple businesses and organizations with significant online activities.
Cyber-attacks are most common nowadays but to such a large scale threat that is about five companies at one time is first time.
"We have never seen this on such a scale - five companies hit at one time with the same threat," said Wang. He added that till now regulator has seen single instances of cyber-crime.
FireEye, a cybersecurity consultancy, said the attacks were part of a wave of threatened denial of service attacks by a previously unidentified group that first appeared in Europe last month.
The Taiwan attacks do not pose a threat to the island's broader trading and financial system, Wang said. However, the regulator had asked all securities firms to step up defensive measures, he added.
Masterlink Securities Corp, a threat recipient said its website had come under attack, but it had recovered and operations were normal.
"The emails were sent under the name of the 'Armada Collective'," said Chiu Shao-chou, an official of the internet cybercrime division of Taiwan's Criminal Investigation Bureau, the government's top investigation body.
The Armada Collective, a hacking extortion group, has been linked to financial blackmail heists elsewhere. But Chiu said the group has been put under watch and Taiwan investigators were still looking into the original source of the emails.
The email demanded payment in web-based digital currency bitcoin equivalent to about T$300,000 ($9,731.41), Taiwan media said. None of the securities companies made any payments, Chiu said.
Capital Securities Corp another brokerage firm was hit on Monday by a DDoS attack lasting 20 minutes before its system recovered, the regulator said. However, it was not found to be related to recent case of the threatening emails.