A study in extortion

10 July 2019

When an Oil Exec is targeted for blackmail, Schillings’ CR team was there to attack the problem from all sides.

A senior executive from a large oil and gas company headquartered in Europe receives an email from an ‘organisation’ asserting that it has had access to his personal system for a number of weeks. The email includes evidence to support this claim, including excerpts from confidential memos and a screengrab of the executive taken from his own laptop camera. The extortionists further claim to have harvested additional, severely compromising, material concerning the executive.

The demand

In exchange for destroying the information, the extortionists demand that the executive provides them with confidential corporate information including coordinates for potential drill sites in West Africa, as well as a large sum of money to be delivered in crypto-currency. The client discusses the issue with the company’s General Counsel and the executive board quickly make a decision to trigger the Brit policy.

Within minutes the executive is in touch with Schillings’ team of highly experienced, multi-disciplinary consultants.

The response

Two response consultants are immediately deployed to the client’s headquarters to meet with the affected executive and the senior management team. They are supported by Schillings Cyber, Intelligence and Legal teams, who conduct an assessment of the validity of the threat. This includes an investigation into the likely extortionists, their probable modus operandi and their ability to deploy any material that they have obtained. Schillings’ cyber experts also ensure the company and key individuals’ systems are secured, by employing active defence techniques.

A robust response strategy is developed to help the client regain control of the situation that includes a ‘proof of possession’ demand. In addition to a reconfiguration of the Crisis Management Team (CMT) to meet the needs of this specific incident, we begin producing a financial plan and negotiation strategy. The authorities are notified and the Schillings consultants act as a conduit between the police and the CMT.

All internal and external communications are monitored and all potential contact is scripted. While Cyber looks in to the metadata for clues on how the information was leaked, our team of reputation and privacy experts simultaneously begin developing a comprehensive reputational strategy which includes steps to reduce future exposure to extortion and blackmail.

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