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Security experts are warning of a new extortion email campaign threatening to bombard websites using AdSense with fake traffic, thereby triggering Google’s anti-fraud systems.

A website owner wrote to journalist and researcher Brian Krebs claiming to have received just such a threat. The extortionists demanded $5000 in Bitcoin, or else they would bombard the site with bot-driven traffic.

This in turn, they claimed, would set off alarm bells with Google and force the tech giant to suspend the web owner’s AdSense account, depriving him of valuable advertising revenue.

“Next an ad serving limit will be placed on your publisher account and all the revenue will be refunded to advertisers. This means that the main source of profit for your site will be temporarily suspended,” the email reportedly argued.

“It will take some time, usually a month, for the AdSense to lift your ad ban, but if this happens we will have all the resources needed to flood your site again with bad quality web traffic which will lead to a second AdSense ban that could be permanent.”

Google itself claimed such threats are rare, and in any case it has the tools to detect and prevent sabotage like this from succeeding.

It urged any web owners that have been the subject of such threats to fill in an online form, and/or to visit its help page on sabotage.

Jake Moore, cybersecurity specialist at ESET, urged users to treat these extortionists as they should ransomware authors, by refusing to engage.

“I would firmly advise people not to pay any extortionists as there is no guarantee that this will stop the traffic. If anything, these criminals will likely place your name on their suckers list, and possibly come back with higher payment demands,” he added.

“This should be reported to the police, and I suggest you do not communicate with these attackers.”  

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